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Enugu State Governor-elect, Mr. Peter Mbah, has urged the state Election Petitions Tribunal to throw out the petition filed by the governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Chijioke Edeoga against his emergence as the winner of the 18th of March governorship election in the state.
Mbah, who was the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in his reply to Edeoga’s petition through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), submitted that Edeoga’s petition was incompetent and should be dismissed.
Edeoga, the first runner-up in the Enugu governorship election, is claiming that he and not the candidate of the PDP won the election.
Besides the over-voting in favour of Mbah, which he alleged, the petitioner, also urged for the disqualification of the PDP candidate on grounds of alleged certificate forgery.
Responding, Mbah stated that contrary to the claims of the petitioner, he ‘is more qualified, both educationally and otherwise, to contest the March 18 governorship election in Enugu State.’
The governor-elect pointed out that the alleged certificate forgery (one of the grounds for disqualification) had already been resolved by the court and as such the tribunal lacks jurisdiction to hear again and take a decision in the matter.
Specifically, Edeoga had claimed that Mbah forged his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate with No. A808297 which Mbah had submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification to contest the poll.
But in his reply, Mbah who had accused the petitioners of initiating frivolous cases in court against him pointed out that his NYSC certificate was not only duly issued to him but that the courts had resolved the issue in his favour.
Referring to the judgment of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) delivered in Suit No. FCT/HC/2399/2023, Mbah informed the tribunal that, ‘this issue has become Res Judicata’ in law and no court, including the tribunal, can revisit the issue.
‘Suit No. FCT/HC/2399/2023 has suffered the same fate as SUIT NO: FHC/EN/CS/217/2022 wherein the Court of Appeal awarded N37 million cost in favour of Mbah and PDP candidates against Chika Idoko for filing frivolous action against Mbah and dragging same up to the Court of Appeal,’ Mbah submitted.
Mbah further claimed that Edeoga who participated in the primaries of PDP and who was recorded to have scored nine votes in the said primary election cannot under the Electoral Act be presented by LP as its candidate.
The combined provisions of Section 77(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act, 2022 makes it mandatory for every political party to maintain a register of its members with INEC both soft and hard copy and make such a register of members available 30 days to the date of primaries.
‘The Labour Party primaries was held on June 9, 2022 when as at May 25, 2022 when PDP held it Primaries, Chijioke Edeoga was at venue of PDP primaries where he contested but lost to Peter Mbah who recorded 790 votes as against Edeoga who recorded nine votes. Therefore, it is impossible for Edeoga to maintain that he was a member of the Labour Party 30 days before the governorship primary election of the Labour Party,” Mbah said.
“Chijioke Edeoga is estopped in law from challenging the election of March 18, 2023, having voluntarily entered into a Memorandum of Understanding of May 19, 2022, wherein he undertook not to challenge the outcome of PDP primaries and the eventual outcome of the general election.
‘He also made an official statement on May 25, pledging to remain in PDP. All these he did voluntarily and because of his desperation to become a governor at all cost,’ Mbah added.
He accordingly urged the tribunal to dismiss Edeoga’s petition for lacking in merit.
‘The petition filed by Edeoga and the Labour Party was not signed by the National Chairman of the party who is empowered by law to sign every petition presented before any tribunal on behalf of the party.
‘Edeoga’s petition not being signed by the National Chairman of the party renders the same incompetent,’ Mbah submitted.