Enugu, September 21, 2023 - In a significant legal development, the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has reaffirmed Peter Ndubuisi Mbah as the duly elected Governor of Enugu State. This ruling comes in response to a legal challenge mounted by the Labour Party (LP) and its candidate, Chijioke Jonathan Edeoga, who contested the gubernatorial election against Mbah, the candidate of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).
The tribunal's ruling, delivered by Justice Kudirat Morayo Akano, addressed several critical issues raised in the LP's petition:
1. Edeoga's Eligibility: The LP and Edeoga alleged that Peter Mbah was not qualified to run in the election due to the submission of a forged NYSC discharge certificate. However, the tribunal ruled that the petitioners failed to prove that Mbah lacked the minimum educational requirements required by law for gubernatorial candidates. Additionally, it clarified that an NYSC discharge certificate is not a mandatory requirement for contesting a gubernatorial election in Nigeria.
2. Allegations of Non-Compliance: The LP and Edeoga raised concerns regarding the conduct of the election, including issues such as the non-use of Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines for accreditation, result interchange in polling units, electoral violence, over-voting, and erroneous tabulations. Nevertheless, the tribunal concluded that the petitioners could not substantiate their claims, as their witnesses were not accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and their testimonies were deemed invalid.
3. Cancellation of Votes: The tribunal acknowledged that voting did not occur in one polling unit (Amagu PU) and subsequently nullified the results for all political parties in that particular unit. However, it noted that in the remaining 10 polling units in Nkanu East Local Government Area, the agents failed to sign the results sheet, rendering their witness statements inadmissible, as they could not establish their status as party agents.
4. Dismissal of Petition: Ultimately, the tribunal dismissed the LP and Edeoga's petition, characterizing it as lacking in merit, weak, based on hearsay, and containing fabricated and inadmissible evidence. It upheld Peter Ndubuisi Mbah as the valid winner of the election, citing his majority of lawful votes cast as the decisive factor.
Additionally, a separate petition filed by Chris Agu and the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), aimed at disqualifying Peter Mbah on grounds of alleged ex-conviction and the forgery of his NYSC discharge certificate, was also rejected by the tribunal. It explained that the petitioners failed to provide certified true copies (CTCs) of the alleged documents and could not rely on photocopies. The tribunal emphasized that evidence presented by Mbah demonstrated his acquittal of the charges.
This landmark ruling solidifies Peter Ndubuisi Mbah's status as the Governor of Enugu State, confirming his election victory and settling the legal challenges that arose following the gubernatorial poll held on March 18, 2023.