The Labour Party and its governorship candidate in the March 18 governorship election in Enugu State, Chijioke Edeoga have officially closed their case against the election that produced Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party the governor.
Edeoga and his party are challenging the election of Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party insisting that it was rigged and that Mbah didn’t score the highest valid votes cast during the poll.
He is also praying the tribunal disqualify Mbah over an alleged forgery of the National Youth Service Corps discharge certificate.
The LP candidate closed his case after he tendered several documentary evidence and called a total of 30 witnesses that testified before the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Enugu.
Among the exhibits he tendered before the court included polling unit results (form EC8A) in all the areas in contention; ward collation results (form EC8B) in the affected areas and a summary of the results as well as the declaration of the results.
The petitioners also tendered among many others, the NYSC produced documents of Oma and Partners; form EC9 of Chijioke Edeoga and Governor Peter Mbah as well as the BVAS machines which was brought to court by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), who was subpoenaed to appear before the court on Sunday.
Though Edeoga initially told the court that he would call a total of 37 witnesses to testify in the matter, he closed his case on Sunday with the testimony of the Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), who appeared as the 18th witness for the petitioners.
At the resumed hearing on Sunday where the REC was subpoenaed to produce, BVAS machines, one of the senior staff of the commission, Victor Okafor, 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 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 the Owo and Ugbawka 1 registration areas of the Nkanu East Local Government Area, adding that the machines could only be identified by their codes.
According to him, the codes of the five BVAS machines brought included 14/08/06/003, 14/08/01/002, 14/08/06/005, 14/08/17/012, 14/08/01/003,
“All the machines contained the BVAS and accessories,” he said.
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.
He also did not provide the certified true copies of the BVAS report of the 2023 governorship election polling unit- by-polling unit, as well as the CTC of voters, register used in Owo and Ugbawka 1 Registration Areas in Nkanu East LGA of the state.
He however insisted that he was not holding back any information, as according to him, all the documents they applied and paid for have been supplied to the petitioners.
The LP counsel, Mr Eyitayo Fatogun (SAN) tendered the five BVAS machines to the Tribunal as the PDP counsel, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu, and Mbah’s counsel, Mr Alex Izinyon objected to the tendering of the machines, saying that their reasons would be made known during their final addresses.
The tribunal, however, admitted the BVAS machines as evidence.
Responding to the question by the counsel to Mbah, the INEC staff said that the machine could contain only successfully uploaded accredited information.
The two last witnesses called by the LP, Mr Abba Godwin and Amos Onyebuchi, who were LP agents, from Ette Central and Ikwele Ugbele respectively, both from Igbo-Etiti North LGA said that there was overvoting at their polling units during the governorship election.
Upon the close of the petitioner’s case, the lead counsel to the petitioner, Dr V.J Azinge (SAN) commended the Tribunal for their patience as she closed the case.
The INEC counsel, Mr H Okoli applied for a date to open their defense.
The Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice M. K Akano adjourned the matter till July 18 for INEC to open its defense.