How Groups uncover fresh shortcomings in Enugu guber tribunal’s verdict, seek review of judgement

A new twist has been added to the controversies trailing the decision of Enugu election petition tribunal to uphold the election of Peter Mbah as governor of the coal city state.

PlatinumPost reports that Mbah of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was narrowly declared winner of the 18 March, 2023 election by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a move which prompted the candidate of Labour Party, Chijioke Edeoga to challenge the results in the tribunal....CONTINUE READING

But addressing a press conference in Abuja at the weekend, Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) in Clconjunction with Patriotic Defenders of National Institutions, faulted the decision of the tribunal to uphold Mbah’s victory.

National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said issues raised by Edeoga, which range from alleged forged National Youth Service Corps certificate to over-voting, among others were enough to nullify Mbah’s election.

The groups, which called for the review of the tribunal judgement based on new findings that it was a miscarriage of justice, expressed concern over the decline of judicial integrity in the country.

READ ALSO :I’m still finding it difficult to understand Peter Mbah’s betrayal – Chimaroke Nnamani

The text of the press conference reads : “We, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), in conjunction with the Patriotic Defenders of National Institutions, gather here today to address a matter of utmost importance to the foundation of our nation’s democracy.

We are deeply concerned about the recent judgment handed down by the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal regarding Petition No.: EPT/EN/GOV/01/2023.

This petition, filed by Chijioke Edeoga and the Labour Party, challenges the outcome of the gubernatorial election held on March 18, 2023, in Enugu State.

This case brings to light crucial issues surrounding the integrity of certification, justice, and the rule of law in Nigeria.

*Key Issues:*

The Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal’s decision has raised serious questions about the conduct of the tribunal, the credibility of our institutions, including the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), the Department of State Security (DSS), the Judiciary and the broader implications for the certification process in Nigeria.

The tribunal swiftly dismissed allegations of NYSC certificate forgery against the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Peter Mbah, and rejected the Labour Party’s claims of over-voting and bypassing the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). The tribunal’s conclusion was that Peter Mbah was legitimately elected as governor based on the majority of valid votes in the election.

However, the Labour Party and its gubernatorial candidate are appealing this decision, firmly believing that justice was not served in this case. We are deeply troubled by the apparent decline in the integrity of our judiciary, where questionable rulings frequently emerge from our esteemed halls of justice.

The case before the tribunal, led by Honourable Justice Kudirat Akano, points to a clear instance of electoral malpractice. The petitioners presented evidence that after the collation of 16 out of the 17 local government areas in Enugu State, Labour Party candidate Chijioke Edeoga was leading by over 11,000 votes. Shockingly, the PDP in Enugu, possibly with the involvement of INEC, awarded the PDP a staggering 30,000 votes in Nkanu East LGA, which happens to be the PDP candidate’s LGA.

The Labour Party alleged that the INEC BVAS data for Nkanu East LGA showed a total of 15,000 accredited voters on Election Day. However, when the results were declared, the PDP was credited with a total of 30,350 votes, while the Labour Party received only 1,855 votes. How could INEC report over 33,000 votes in a location where only about 15,000 voters were accredited?

Legal experts have analyzed the judgment and found it to be delivered with a disregard for the Constitution and Supreme Court precedents. Section 182(1)(j) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly outlines the penalties for forgery, regardless of the perpetrator’s status.

The tribunal also erred in failing to reevaluate the figures awarded to the PDP. It is a miscarriage of justice for the court to rule in favor of an individual who as alleged, blatantly violated Section 182(1)(j) of the Constitution.

Furthermore, it was erroneous for the court to assert that a petitioner must produce a certificate they did not create. Additionally, describing the evidence of witnesses subpoenaed by the court as “incompetent” because the witness statements were not filed at the time the petition was initially submitted is a grave mistake.

The Supreme Court, in the case of Agi vs PDP, defined forgery as presenting a document not created by the agency purported to have made it. In this petition, the tribunal called five witnesses, including a Director from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) responsible for Corps Certification, and a Managing Partner of a law firm who sought NYSC certificate verification under the Freedom of Information Act to confirm the authenticity of Peter Mbah’s NYSC certificate presented to INEC.

The tribunal’s assertion that the forged certificate was not submitted to support Mr. Mbah’s qualification to contest the election contradicts the law and Supreme Court precedent. The tribunal’s decision that the NYSC certificate is not a prerequisite for a gubernatorial election, or that both the forged and original documents must be presented to the court, is a gross miscarriage of justice.

The court was also incorrect in declaring that the NYSC certificate, not having been mentioned in Form EC9 (the affidavit of personal particulars), is merely an attached document and does not impact the qualification of the second respondent.

Section 177 of the constitution outlines the qualifications for running in a gubernatorial election in Nigeria. Anyone eligible under Section 177 can be disqualified under Section 182(1) (j) if, as specified in subsection (j), they present a forged certificate to INEC.

The Supreme Court, in the case of Ucha v. Onwe (2011), ALL FWLR (PT 580) 1227 @ 1295; (2011) 4 NWLR (PT 1237) 386 @ 427, upheld the provision of Section 66(1)(h) of the 1999 Constitution as a disqualifying factor. The tribunal’s finding that the NYSC Certificate is not covered by Section 66(1) (h) of the 1999 Constitution is incorrect.

Hence, the judgment delivered by the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal can only be described as a miscarriage of justice and a fundamental jurisprudential flaw.

*Key Concerns:*

A central issue in this case revolves around the serious allegation of NYSC certificate forgery against Peter Mbah, the PDP candidate. This allegation gains weight through NYSC’s testimony as contained in a sworn affidavit in the Federal High Court case between Peter Mbah and the NYSC, which formed part of the evidence NYSC submitted to the tribunal in further proof that NYSC never issued any certificate to Mr. Mbah, let alone the purported certificate of National Service No. A808297 dated January 6, 2003, was not given due cognizance by the tribunal.

The revelations from the NYSC is alleged to cast serious doubt on the authenticity of the NYSC certificate presented by Peter Mbah, raising significant questions about the eligibility of the governor for the gubernatorial race.

Again, the implications of the tribunal’s judgment are deeply troubling. They undermine the integrity of the Nigerian certification process, not only for the NYSC but also for other certifying bodies. The tribunal’s decision, seemingly disregarding critical evidence presented by the NYSC, raises serious concerns about the credibility of our institutions and the rule of law.

On the one hand, there is confusion surrounding the appearance of the Department of State Service (DSS) at the Enugu State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal. The question arises: Why did the DSS appear at the tribunal? The DSS is not the issuing authority for National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificates, and they are not typically involved in NYSC matters. Their unexpected presence at the tribunal has raised concerns and cast doubt on their role because it falls outside their usual mandate.

The DSS does not have a mandate to appear before election petition tribunals in political cases and provide testimonies in favor of one candidate over another, especially when it involves a government institution like the NYSC. So, the critical question is, who authorized or procured their appearance at the tribunal?

Furthermore, there is a troubling conspiracy theory yet to be verified unless thoroughly investigated by an independent body of experts to ascertain if there a connection between the DSS hierarchy, as it were, and Peter Mbah, the individual involved in the dispute with the Labour Party. Peter Mbah, the owner of Pinnacle Oil, had his certificate issue, and the DSS even testified that it was valid.

Notably, there is the urgent need to further investigate why the DSS featured in that tribunal matter which is unprecedented.

Moreover, the individual, Isa Yahaya Mohammed, who represented the DSS at the tribunal has been alleged as someone who is no longer associated with the DSS. Mohammed had at the tribunal, while giving testimony reportedly claimed that he was a serving deputy director in charge of operations at the DSS and later contradicted himself in his written deposition where he wrote that he was Deputy Director (Strategy).

However, it’s essential to note that he appeared to have the blessing of the DSS, as they did not arrest him for falsely claiming to represent their organization. In typical situations, the DSS would swiftly apprehend someone falsely claiming to represent their agency. This has resulted in a situation where the DSS appears to have undermined their own institution’s credibility and also cast doubt on the NYSC’s integrity.

The larger question remains: What motivated their involvement in this matter? Were financial incentives or other factors involved? There are various coincidences surrounding the strange appearance in a partisan political litigation by the DSS and the fact that they gave testimony regarding what is considered their secret internal investigative activity when in actual fact there is absolute no need for their appearance since the DSS is not an agency under the Enugu state’s chapter of the People’s Democratic Party which sponsored Peter Mbah in that contentious gubernatorial election.

HURIWA and Patriotic Defenders of National Institutions are profoundly concerned that the NYSC, a pivotal institution in Nigeria tasked with certifying the completion of national service for graduates, is facing questions about the authenticity of a gubernatorial candidate’s NYSC certificate. This threatens the trust and credibility of the NYSC. We insist on a comprehensive investigation into the authenticity of NYSC certificates issued to all individuals in public offices, particularly those in elected positions.

The rule of law is a fundamental pillar of democracy. In this case, it appears that the tribunal’s judgment may have departed from established legal principles. The rule of law guarantees that justice is administered impartially, without bias. We demand a thorough review of the judgment to ensure the rule of law prevails.

Moreover, the independence of the judiciary is crucial for the smooth functioning of a democratic society. A judiciary perceived as compromised or biased erodes public confidence in the judicial system. We call for an evaluation of the Justice Akano-led tribunal’s decision to determine if it aligns with the principles of judicial independence.

The credibility of elections is paramount for democracy. The accusations of over-voting and bypassing the BVAS during the election in Nkanu East local government area, as raised by the Labour Party, demand a comprehensive investigation to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process.

*Our Stance and Demands:*

In light of the issues outlined above, HURIWA and Patriotic Defenders of National Institutions firmly call for a thorough and impartial review of the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal’s judgment to ensure that justice is served. The evidence presented by the NYSC and the allegations of certificate forgery warrant a comprehensive reexamination of the case.

Furthermore, we demand a nationwide investigation into the authenticity of NYSC certificates issued to individuals holding public offices. The credibility of these certificates must be verified to maintain public trust and uphold certification integrity.

In addition, the rule of law must be upheld without exception. The tribunal’s decision should align with established legal principles, and justice should be administered impartially. The judiciary must remain independent and free from bias.

HURIWA and Patriotic Defenders of National Institutions emphasize the need for a thorough investigation into the allegations of over-voting and BVAS bypass during the election. Electoral integrity is paramount for democracy.

In conclusion, we remain resolute in our commitment to defending human rights, upholding the rule of law, and protecting the integrity of our democratic institutions. We will closely monitor developments in this case and continue to advocate for transparency, accountability, and justice in our democracy….CONTINUE READING