The judicial quest by those who lost out in the November 2013 governorship election to reverse the outcome is still ongoing

BY VINCENT UJUMADU

AFTER over three months of sitting, the Anambra State governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Awka adjourned to May 23, 2014 after the various parties in the petition closed their cases.

The petitioners challenged the declaration of Chief Willie Obiano of APGA as the winner of the November 16, 2013 governorship election in Anambra State by INEC.

Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ishaq Bello, while addressing the parties, commended them for exhibiting maturity while arguing their cases on behalf of their clients. Indeed, the parties adhered to his earlier plea to emphasize professionalism as there was no incident of abuses throughout the period, except few shouting matches during some of the sittings. He also promised that the tribunal would be fair to all the parties.

About 60 lawyers, including 16 Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, participated in the legal battle that kept the audience on their toes throughout the period.

The entire space in the massive judiciary compound of the Anambra State High Court complex, the venue of the tribunal, was usually filled to capacity especially on the days star witnesses, such as Governor Wilie Obiano, Senator Chris Ngige, Dr. Chike Obidigbo and Sir Victor Umeh appeared in court.

Essentially, the petitioners prayed for the cancellation of the election over alleged non compliance with the electoral act as amended and the allegation of the involvement of Chief Obiano in double voter registration.

Though the tribunal initially struck out the issue of alleged multiple registrations, Ngige took the matter to the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu, which directed that the issue should be treated by the tribunal. With the resuscitation of the issue, it virtually took the center stage throughout the sitting of the tribunal.

The allegation was that Obiano registered in Lagos State as a voter and also registered twice in Anambra State thereby possessing three voter’s cards.

While testifying earlier, the governorship candidate of APC, Senator Chris Ngige told the tribunal that he tendered an extract of the INEC voter register for Lagos State showing the name of Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano as having voted in the governorship and presidential elections of April 2011.

But answering questions during cross examination, Chief Obiano insisted that he has only one voter’s card which was the one issued to him by INEC, following his application for transfer of his voting right from Lagos to Anambra State. He told the tribunal:  ”I registered as a voter in Lagos State.

When I returned to Anambra State to contest for the governor, I applied for a transfer of my registration. I went in the morning of August 19, 2013 to ascertain the process of transferring my registration from Lagos to Anambra State and to make it possible for me to vote in a booth near my house at Aguleri. I applied on that August 19, 2013 and submitted it the same day.

“The electoral officer, Nsofor, asked me to write an application and attach my voter’s card. I did so the same day and when I submitted it to him, he told me to come back in two days time. I went back on the 21st of August, 2013, hoping to pick up the new voter’s card. I was told to fill a form and I also did my biometrics.

“He told me to pick the new card in two weeks time. On September 3, 2013, I went to the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Awka to pick up the new card. I did not, at any point in time, have two voters’ cards. The valid one I used in the election was the one given to me in Anambra State.”

Both Obiano’s application to INEC and the voter’s card he used during the election were admitted in evidence.
According to the governor, as at 3rd September, 2013, his old voter’s card was no longer in his possession. He also said that he could not vouch for the picture found against his name in the voters’ register because he was never at Eri primary School for registration, but at the electoral officer’s office at Otuocha for the registration.

He also faulted the age in the controversial Eri Primary School voters’ register, saying that he was 58 years then and not 56 as was shown.
According to him, he was 55 years old when he registered in Lagos. In answer to another question, Obiano said INEC had never accused him of engaging in double registration or possessing more than one voter’s card.

As the tribunal progressed, Ngige said he did not report the alleged multiple voter’s registration by Governor Willie Obiano to the police because his political party was already handling the matter. Testifying under cross examination by the counsel to INEC, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN,  Ngige also said that he did not know if the voter’s card used by Obiano when he voted was forged, adding that it is the responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to determine such.

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