By iky Njuku
Soon, the Imo State governorship Election Tribunal will give its judgement on the disputed governship election of March 9 2019, Three candidates and their political parties challenged the declaration of Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha as the governor of Imo State at the tribunal. They are Sen. Hope Uzodimma and the APC, Sen. Ifeanyi Arraraume and APGA and Ugwumba Uche Nwosu and AA.
After almost Five months of Cross fire at the tribunal, these candidates and their parties have exhaustively laid their cases against the declaration of the Ihedioha, as governor of the state by INEC.
What did they prove or what did they fail to prove? Many are wont to wonder who will carry the day? As we await the final verdict from the tribunal. I propose to critically examine the issues as canvassed by these candidates at the tribunal and leave you, the reader, to draw your conclusion as to who proved what or failed to prove what ?
Senator Hope Uzodinma and the APC premised their petition at the tribunal on the complaint that he won the majority of lawful votes and secured the mandatory one quarter of the votes cast in at least two thirds of the 27 Local Governments Areas in the state. According to his petition his votes were unlawfully excluded to ensure his placement at the 4th position.
Senator Ararume on the other hand did not claim to have won the election. His complaint was that the election was marred by numerous forms of malpractices, corrupt practices and therefore void in nineteen local government areas and that other forms of irregularities substantially affected the result of the election in thirteen Local Government Areas. He demanded for the cancellation of the election and the conduct of a fresh election. He also raised the fact that the results were massively inflated in the three local government areas of Aboh-Mbaise, Ezinhitte-Mbaise and Ahiazu-Mbaise.
According to his petition the scores credited to Ihedioha in the three Local Government Areas were higher than what he scored in the remaining twenty four local government areas, a fact that evidenced over voting.
Uche Nwosu’s case was built on the complaint that Ihedioha did not secure the mandatory 2/3 requirement and therefore ought to go for a run off with him. He also claimed to have won the election with majority of votes cast. He also claimed that the election was vitiated by non compliance with the provisions of the electoral act. His alternative prayer is that he be declared the winner of the election having scored the majority of lawful votes at the election. Or that the election be cancelled and fresh elections conducted.
In the course of hearing at the tribunal Senator Hope Uzodinma called 54 witnesses and founded his complaint and evidence on the exclusion of the result of 388 polling units at the collation center. It was clear from the pleadings of both parties that there was election at the polling units which was free and fair. By that settled issue what arose for determination for the tribunal was what happened at the collation center, whether any result was omitted or not. Further the Uzodinma team tendered the result of the 388 polling units and called the witness testimony of fifty four party agents who were unit agents and collation agents.
More importantly the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations during the election also gave evidence and tendered the copies of the results of the 388 units given to his men at the field at the end of the election. These police copies of the results from the units collaborated the result tendered by Sen Uzodinma.
This exposure by the police places a heavy burden on INEC, Ihedioha and PDP to prove, as they alleged, the falsity of the results submitted by APC. They claimed in their statement of reply that these were “results manufactured and produced through the use of INEC snatched documents”.
INEC’S, defence to Uzodimma’s Submission, was that the result produced by him were fake and a product of forgery.
Regrettably neither INEC nor Ihedioha produced any iota of evidence to contradict the weighty evidence called by Uzodinma. Ihedioha called only 4 unit witnesses while PDP called only one INEC witness. INEC called no witness. Many were shocked that despite the monumental evidence produced by Uzodimma, the PDP failed to counter the case of the petition in any material particular. They did not produce their own unit copies of the result and did not call even one collation officer to disprove the allegation of unlawful exclusion which was proved by the petitioner through the Form EC8B tendered at the trial.
Interestingly the INEC’S collation form EC8B did not contain the results of the 388 units thus evidencing the exclusion. Equally the distribution chart for sensitive materials used by INEC in the election and which was tendered by the petitioners and confirmed by the INEC witness called by PDP showed that the serial numbers of the result tendered by the police and Uzodinma fall within the serial number distributed by INEC. This is yet another evidence of the authenticity of the results tendered by Uzodimma and the APC
Observers at the tribunal were surprised that in the face of these clear evidence and facts, INEC could not provide the original copies of the FORM EC8A in their custody to prove the foggery allegation against the results tendered at the tribunal by Uzodimma thus leaving the case of Uzodinma unchallenged and uncontroverted
. It was also clear from the inability of the PDP and its candidate to present to the tribunal their agents copies of the Form EC8A that they had no defense to the petitioners allegation of omission/exclusion of votes.
The legal huddle that faced Uche Nwosu was his inability to call witness in all the polling units in the three Local Government Areas of Mbaise to prove the allegation of over-voting and other allegations of electoral malpractice alleged in his petition. It is not also clear how he established that he scored the majority of lawful votes in the face of the APC challenge and overwhelming evidence of exclusion of result. His assertions when considered along with the APC case of exclusion will definitely put a big hole to his claim of scoring the majority of lawful votes at the election.
The other leg of his case is that Ihedioha did not secure the mandatory 2/3 requirements hence the need for a runoff between him and Ihedioha. This position can only stand where the tribunal finds that Senator Hope Uzodinma did not score the majority of lawful votes and did not secure the mandatory 2/3 threshold as he claimed in his petition
Arraraume was saddled with the onerous task of proving the volume of irregularities and malpractices he pleaded in his petition. Just as stated in the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the Presidential election tribunal between Atiku and Buhari, a petitioner who raises or predicates his case on irregularities, corrupt practices and other forms of electoral malpractices must call unit by unit evidence of those that witnessed the said malpractices at the units. The broad allegations of irregularities and malpractices pleaded by Senator Ararume in his petition need to be proved beyond reasonable doubt since they are mainly of a criminal nature.
No one can say for certain whether the tribunal will be satisfied with the evidence called at the tribunal by Senator Ararume to prove his case.
However if he was able to establish that the election was marred by irregularities and electoral malpractices, It would be difficult for Senator Hope Uzodinma to convince the tribunal to award him victory in the face of irregularities and malpractices. But if he failed to prove so then it will not affect Uzodima’s case. But was the act of not declaring results of the units Uzodima protested not an irregularity?
However, it appears that Senator Hope Uzodinma technically and tactfully presented a case that is devoid of the heavy burden of electoral prove of irregularities and malpractices. By not alleging irregularities and malpractices he technically ran away from the burden of proving his case beyond reasonable doubt. His allegation of exclusion of result of 388 units only requires prove on a balance of probabilities. He does not have the heavy burden of proving occurrences or electoral malpractices that will require proof beyond reasonable doubt and calling unit witnesses
His main complaint just like the case of Jim Nwobodo vs Onoh and the case of Ajasin vs Omohoriowo is that the lawful votes secured by him were excluded during collation by the INEC collation Officers. Curiously, neither INEC nor Ihedioha called any evidence of COLLATION OFFICERS of INEC or PDP collation agent witnesses in rebuttal of this grave allegation.
The only four witnesses called by Ihedioha were unit witnesses from one Local Government Area of Isu LGA in prove of the holding of election and collection of copies of result by agents present at the end of election, a fact agreed to by both parties.
Well now, you can hazard to guest as to who proved what or failed to prove what Still, it is the tribunal that will determine the matter on the evidential weight of the case presented by the parties. The rest of us can only wait and see.
Njuku was a former chairman of Aboh Mbaise LGA Imo state