Acknowledges the unassailable lead of the PDP candidate_
The Enugu State Governorship and House of Assembly Tribunal sitting in Enugu, on Thursday, 29th September 2023, delivered judgement on the petition filed by the Labour Party candidate, Okwudili Nnaji against Hon. Okechukwu Anthony Mba of the PDP. The judgment delivered by the panel led by Hon. Justice Adie Attoe Onyebueke declared the election inconclusive citing controversial results from some polling units in four wards, namely: Akpofu/Isienu Amagunze, Owo, Ihuokpara, and Amafor Ugbawka.
The first respondent (INEC) failed to call any witness or tender any document or result in defence of the certificate of return which it (INEC) voluntarily issued to Hon. Okechukwu Anthony Mbah to popular acclaim by the electorate. This curious non-rebuttal of the evidence of the petitioners by INEC is suspected to have misled the tribunal to order for a re-run in the affected areas.
It is interesting to note however, that the second respondent and PDP’s candidate in the election, Hon. Okechukwu Anthony Mba, is said to be still leading with a margin of more than 16,700 votes, even with the cancelled votes discounted. Hence, political and legal pundits describe the decision of the Tribunal as a mere academic exercise because the margin of lead is more than cancelled votes.
The Tribunal was also faulted for failing to acknowledge INEC’s exclusive statutory power to decide method of collation, but based its decision on contents of pieces of paper said to have been printed by the petitioners from the IREV portal.
Be that as it may, the PDP and it’s candidate have decided to appeal the decision of the Tribunal. Legal commentators are _ad idem_ that the appellate court shall upturn the decision of the Tribunal, the Supreme Court having established in the case of Adeleke Vs Oyetola that whenever results of polling units are cancelled as a result of over-voting, a recounting of the remaining valid votes shall be the subsequent logical exercise in determination of the winner of the poll.
While addressing newsmen on the judgement, the second respondent, Hon Okechukwu Anthony Mba, encouraged the good people of Nkanu East State Constituency to remain calm and law abiding as he and his party shall remain in office while the appellate court corrects the mistakes of the Tribunal and affirms their popular mandate. The legislator expressed his enduring commitment to their welfare and the security of their mandate. He is equally confident that with the margin of lead, even the unlikely event of a rerun in the controversial polling units would have no effect on the final outcome of the election.