Anxiety, expectations in Enugu, Kano, Adamawa over guber tribunals’ proceedings

The Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal yesterday fixed August 16 for the submission of the final written addresses of the counsel in the case.


Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Kudirat Morayo Akano, made the announcement after the candidate of Labour Party (LP) in the election, Chijioke Edeoga and Governor Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) closed their case and defence respectively, reports The Nation.


Also yesterday, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Adamawa State, Senator Aishat Dahiru Binani, accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of plotting to frustrate the prosecution of her petition challenging the declaration of Governor Adamu Fintiri of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the poll, while the Secretary to the Kano State Government, Dr. Abdullahi Baffa Bichi, insisted at the Kano Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that Abba Kabir Yusuf of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) was the clear winner of the election.


Edeoga is praying the Enugu tribunal to disqualify Mbah over alleged NYSC certificate forgery.


The LP candidate, who is also asking the tribunal to nullify Mbah’s election victory over alleged manipulation of election results, had presented 30 witnesses to substantiate his claims that Mbah forged the NYSC certificate he presented to INEC before the election and also rigged the election against him (Edeoga).


Edeoga closed his case with the testimony of the Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr Chukwuemeka Chukwu, who appeared as a subpoenaed witness.


The REC, who was subpoenaed to produce BVAS machines, was represented by one of the senior staff of the commission, Victor Okafor, who brought only five BVAS machines as against the number demanded by the petitioners.


Edeoga had applied for a subpoena on the REC to produce the BVAS machines from Owo, Ugbawka 1 Registration Areas in of Nkanu East LGA as well as some other polling units in Igboeze North LGA.


But during cross examination by the petitioners counsel, Okafor who appeared on behalf of the REC, Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwu, said he was mandated to produce five BVAS machines before the tribunal.


He said that the information that was generated on the BVAS machines during the governorship election on March 18 was now contained in the BVAS report from the Headquarters in Abuja.


He said that he did not have the BVAS machines for Owo and Ugbawka 1 registration areas of Nkanu East Local Government Area, adding that the machines could only be identified by their codes.


He said that he could not operate the BVAS machines beyond the information he earlier gave concerning them because they (machines) had not been used since after the election.


The Director of Corps Certification of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Aliyu Abdul Mohammed, had earlier tendered to show that the discharged certificate submitted by the governor to INEC before the March 18 governorship election in the state did not emanate from it.


The NYSC tendered the alleged forged discharge certificate and the original discharge certificate which Mbah ought to have collected.


The witness also presented a letter written by Oma and Partners, an Abuja-based law firm, which had asked the NYSC to scrutinise the discharge certificate submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by the governor.


The petitioners also fielded another witness, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Mary Nneoma Elijah, a principal partner in the law firm of Oma and Partners.


INEC, which is the first respondent in the case, did not present any witness to the allegations against the conduct of the election.


INEC’s counsel, Humphrey Okoli, told the court that the commission had decided not to bring any witness.


Okoli said: “The first respondent (INEC) is mandated to open the case. My Lord, after a thorough review of the case, we have decided not to bring in any witness.”


However, Mbah fought back by presenting three witnesses to defend his victory at the poll. One of the witnesses was an official of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Yahaya Isa Mohammed, who debunked the claim by the NYSC to the effect that Mbah forged his NYSC discharge certificate.


Mohammed, who is the DSS Deputy Director, Operations and Strategic Department accused the NYSC of shoddy and hasty investigation on Mbah’s NYSC discharge certificate. He said from their investigation, certificates in Mbah’s series were found to have been issued to corps members in Lagos, contrary to NYSC’s claim.


However, the LP immediately countered the report, describing it as personal and not emanating from the DSS because it did not bear the letterhead and stamps of the service. It also faulted the report for not having attached documents backing the DSS claims,


But the DSS chief said the NYSC had misplaced Mbah’s original file and opened a temporary one for him, after he had returned from Law School to complete his NYSC.


The state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Chukwuemeka Chukwu, who was represented by a senior staff of the commission, Victor Okafor, insisted that the March 18 governorship election in the state was free and fair and without any manipulation.


Binani accuses INEC of plotting to frustrate her petition before tribunal


Senator Binani, who spoke in Abuja through the APC Returning Officer at the March 18 governorship election and the April 15 supplementary poll, Alhaji Mustapha Umar Madawaki, accused INEC of plotting to frustrate the prosecution of her petition challenging the declaration of Governor Adamu Fintiri of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the poll.


The APC candidate claimed that INEC, in alleged disregard of a subsisting court order, was planning to arrest and detain the suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Adamawa, Barrister Hudu Yunusa Ari, as part of a well-planned strategy to prevent him from testifying as her key witness before Adamawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal.


The commision, according to the APC candidate, was conniving with the state government and anti-Binani forces to thwart the diligent prosecution of the petition, adding that INEC wanted the suspended REC apprehended and kept out of circulation to make him unavailable as witness for the governorship candidate.


Tracing the genesis of the election crisis and the resulting petition, Umar alleged that at the point of collation of results, INEC suddenly allowed its trained ad- hoc workers changed and unlawfully and mysteriously substituted by another group of untrained staff that were not meant for collation of results.


Claiming that an unlawful ad-hoc staff list was submitted by an agent of the state government, Madawaki stated that the fact that INEC accepted the list and used it showed that it was biased in favour of the PDP.


He said: “To my mind, that is a major reason why INEC is working overtime, trying to prevent the former Adamawa State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Barrister Hudu Yunusa Ari, from testifying before the Adamawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal.


“They are afraid of the revelations he would make. Their desperation is so brazen that Justice A.O Manji was forced to openly question INEC lawyer on why they are in a hurry to get Hudu Yunusa Ari arrested while there is a clear court order against that.


“To my mind also, that is the same reason that the Force Headquarters under the former Inspector General of Police IGP shot itself in the foot when it doctored the earlier investigative report into the Adamawa elections that found no indictable offence against Barrister Hudu Yunusa Ari to another one they could use to quickly arrest and incarcerate him.


“We have both the original investigative report and the doctored one at our disposal. We are aware that these are serious charges and have therefore refrained from elaborating further on some of the matters because they are before the Adamawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal.”


Umar described Binani as a victim of gender discrimination, adding that relevant Embassies and Diplomatic Missions will be involved in the battle to regain the alleged stolen mandate of the APC governorship candidate.


Fintiri: Binani will fail


However, Fintiri faulted Binani, describing her decision to go to the tribunal as dead on arrival.


The governor, in a reaction through his Chief Press Secretary, Humwashi Wonosikou, said Binani’s allegations were baseless.


Wonosikou said: “This move too is fruitless and dead on arrival. It is always the antics of unsuccessful politicians who are desperate for power. It is laughable that Mustapha Madawaki could be allowed to be used to spread dangerous allegations against Governor Fintiri and blame the so-called ‘Abuja’ politicians for the electoral defeat of the APC 2023 Governorship candidate in Adamawa State.


“The purveyors of such falsehoods and premeditated campaigns of calumny, whose objective is to harm a reputation developed through time and continuous conduct, “must be held accountable,” that under normal circumstances it wouldn’t have been necessary to reply to coupists and their sponsors especially that the matter is before an Elections Petition Tribunal.


“After her role in the failed civilian coup engineered by the now-suspended Adamawa REC, Hudu Yunusa Ari, Binani is expected to apologise to the people of Adamawa and Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri. Everyone knew that the APC governorship contest was tainted by pay-for-votes and the general dollarization of the entire process.


“Over voting caused the entire primary election to be declared invalid by the Federal High Court in Yola. They anticipated that the cash-in-exchange-for-votes tactics that had won the APC primary would also be successful in the main election.”


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