The Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) has formally requested the Enugu Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal to place its trust in the certified true copies of BVAS data submitted by the Labour Party candidate. This crucial evidence will play a pivotal role in determining the validity of the alleged overvoting incident that reportedly occurred in the Nkanu East Local Government Area during the highly contested governorship elections held on March 18 in Enugu state.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), amidst controversy, faced criticism for its failure to deliver certain Bimodal Voter Accreditation Systems (BiVAS) machines to the Owoh and Ugbawka areas in Nkanu East. This failure was in direct contradiction to the instructions outlined in the subpoena issued by the Tribunal on Saturday. INEC, in response, requested that the copies of the commission’s records provided to the Labour Party and subsequently presented as evidence in court be deemed valid.
Edeoga, who concluded his proceedings at the tribunal on Sunday, lodged a petition with the Chairman of INEC, leveling allegations against the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Chukwuemeka Chukwu. Edeoga claims that Dr Chukwu, in defiance of a legally issued subpoena, has been obstinate in his refusal to comply with requests for a forensic examination of the BiVAS machines.
In the wake of a string of persistent efforts aimed at evading the subpoena that was initially issued on June 26, 2023, the tribunal has resorted to employing more stringent measures. Consequently, an oral subpoena was issued on Saturday, compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make an appearance on Sunday, accompanied by the Biometric Voter Authentication System (BiVAS) machines.
The official representing INEC at the court, identified as Mr. Eze Okafor, did not provide a specific explanation for the failure to present the requested 10 BiVAS machines. Consequently, the tribunal had to rely on the evidence presented by the Labour Party and its candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, in order to determine whether overvoting occurred in the affected areas.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) made an early appearance at the tribunal on Sunday, arriving promptly at 9:00 am. However, it was revealed that only five BiVAS machines were utilized for voter accreditation in the Igbo Eze North Local Government Area. Unfortunately, the machines presented were either devoid of any content or rendered inoperable, thereby impeding the forensic expert’s ability to conduct the anticipated examination.
In a stunning revelation, the Labour Party has put forth a petition claiming that the votes in the Nkanu region have experienced a substantial increase. According to their allegations, the tally of accredited voters has surged from approximately 15,000 to a staggering 32,000 votes, resulting in an alarming surge of over 16,000 votes. This development has undoubtedly raised eyebrows and sparked intense scrutiny. In accordance with the provisions outlined in the Electoral Act, it is stipulated that in instances where incidents of overvoting are confirmed, the cancellation of votes in the respective areas shall be implemented.
In a bold move, Chijioke Edeoga has taken his grievances to the tribunal, seeking justice in light of the controversial declaration of Peter Mbah, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the victor in the highly contested Governorship Elections held on March 18, 2023 in the state.
In a compelling petition, Edeoga has meticulously outlined five grounds to substantiate his claim as the duly elected candidate.
In his petition, the petitioner has raised several significant allegations, including the purported forgery of the NYSC discharge certificate and the alleged instances of vote suppression in the Udenu and Enugu South Local Government Areas.
There have been reports circulating, alleging instances of overvoting in certain electoral regions within the Nkanu East Local Government Area. Additionally, discrepancies of various nature have been purportedly observed in the Igbo Eze North Local Council.