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Enugu Tribunal: INEC Throws Weight Behind Labour Party

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), over the weekend, failed to present some of the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) used for Owoh and Ugbawka areas in Nkanu East Local Government Area to the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal contrary to what was contained in the subpoena issued by the Tribunal on Saturday.

The commission, however, pleaded with the Tribunal to rely on the certified true copies of documents downloaded from its INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) and tendered by the candidate of the Labour Party (LP) to decide on the issue of alleged over-voting said to have taken place in Nkanu East Local Government Area during the March 18 governorship elections in the state.

Edeoga, who closed his case at the tribunal yesterday, had petitioned the chairman of INEC, accusing the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwu, of refusing to heed entreaties to allow a forensic examination of the BVAS machines, in disregard to a lawfully issued subpoena.

Following series of attempts to circumvent the subpoena issued on June 26, 2023, the tribunal issued an oral subpoena on Saturday, forcing INEC to appear on Sunday with the BVAS machines.

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No reason was given by the official that represented INEC who gave his name as Mr. Eze Okafor, for failing to tender the 10 BVAS machines as demanded by the tribunal, leaving the tribunal to rely on evidence supplied by the LP and its candidate, Chijioke Edeoga to decide whether there was over-voting in the affected areas.

INEC arrived at the tribunal as early as 9am with only five BiVAS machines said to have been used to accredit voters in Igbo Eze North Local Government Area, but even the ones tendered were either empty or locked, a situation that prevented the forensic expert from conducting any examination of the machines as earlier expected.

If the tribunal eventually relies on the documents submitted by the LP and Edeoga in its ruling, it would mean that the alleged over-voting said to have taken place in Nkanu East may significantly affect the fortunes of Governor Peter Mbah.

LP had, in their petition, alleged that the votes tally for Nkanu was raised from about 15,000 accredited voters to 32,000 votes, representing a hike of more than 16,000 votes. The Electoral Act provides for a cancellation of votes in areas where such cases of over-voting are established.

Chijioke Edeoga had approached the tribunal seeking redress, following the declaration of Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the March 18, 2023 Governorship Elections in the state.

Edeoga, in his petition laid out five grounds to justify why he was the validly elected candidate. Among the grounds contained in his petition include the fact that Governor Peter Mbah forged his certificate of discharge from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and alleged cases of suppression of votes in Udenu and Enugu South Local Government Areas.

Others include the cases of overvoting in some electoral areas in Nkanu East Local Government Area and other forms of discrepancies in Igbo Eze North Local Council.

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