Ngige vs Obiano: Tribunal admits civil societies’ report on poor election conduct

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BY NWABUEZE OKONKWO, Onitsha
THE Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Awka, yesterday admitted a copy of the report of the November 16, 2013 governorship election written by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, Abuja, a non-governmental organization, NGO and a coalition of over 50 Civil Society Organizations, CSOs that monitored the elections in the state.

The report was brought to the tribunal and tendered by Edwin Onoja, a Programme Officer at PLAC and one of the numerous witnesses to the petitioners, Senator Chris Ngige and All Progressives Congress, APC in their petition filed against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Resident Electoral Commission, REC, Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano and the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.

In his ruling yesterday, the chairman of the tribunal, Ishaq Bello said the report would be admitted as evidence and considered along side the oral evidence and cross-examinations to be given by the witness.

Earlier before the tribunal admitted the report as evidence, the leading counsel to the respondents, Awomolo (SAN), for the first respondent, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) for the third respondent and Patrick Ikwueto (SAN) for the fourth respondent had raised objection to the admissibility of the report as an evidence in the tribunal.

According to Awomolo, Ikpeazu and Ikwueto, the fact that the report emanated from an NGO, and the fact that the time frame allowed to tender such documents has since elapsed should not allow the report to be admitted as evidence.

But in canvassing for its admission, the leading counsel to APC, Akeredolu (SAN), assisted by the leading counsel to Ngige, Nnaemeka Ngige (SAN), said that the document ought to be admitted as evidence because it was the tribunal itself that summoned and subpoened the witness in the first place.

Akeredolu and Ngige pointed out that the report could not have been tendered before the invitation of the witness since it is a reflection of what the witness would have told the tribunal and at the same time, made the tribunal job easier.

In the report, PLAC which claimed to have been duly accredited by INEC to observe the election, just as it observed other elections in the past, said it was their overall impression that the conduct of the elections leaves much to be desired and reflected the lack of competence on the part of INEC in the conduct of the elections.

The report further stated that the several failings of the past elections identified in previous observer reports seemed to have repeated themselves, adding that INEC assertion that this election would be a litmus test of its preparedness for the 2015 general elections has not been fully realised.

The report also attributed the causes of the failure of the election to pass the litmus test to untimely distribution of electoral materials and commencement of accreditation, deployment and conduct of election officials, missing names in the voters’ register, voter turnout, deployment and conduct of security officials, collation and announcement of results and others misnomers.

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