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INEC’s results for Enugu North preceded final collation, tribunal told

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[FILES] Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

• As PDP makes no case submission in Lawani Vs Moro
Petitioners at the National/State Houses of Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal yesterday alleged that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the Enugu North Senatorial District election result even before the final collation. This is just as counsel to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Stephen Lawani’s petition against Senator Abba Moro at the National/State Assembly election tribunal sitting in Makurdi, Mr. C T Mue, closed his case with a no-witness, no case submission.

Counsel to the petitioners, Mr. H.A. Bello, while adopting his final address before the tribunal, told the three-man panel in Enugu that the election ought be to nullified due to INEC’s failure to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act as well as its own guidelines. In the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress, (APC) and its candidate, Eugene Odo, the petitioners are challenging the election of Senator Chukwuka Utazi of PDP his declaration by INEC.

Bello, who said they had filed a final written address dated July 12, 2019 on the matter, told the tribunal that in pages 16-23 of his final address are evidences exhibited for ease of reference “to demonstrate that the INEC put the cart before the horse.

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He added: “INEC declared return before collation. Return was declared on 23rd of February 2019, whereas substantial collation was done on the 24th of February 2019. So, we have shown substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Regulation 37 of the INEC guidelines.

“Compliance to these guidelines are mandatory, compulsory and non-compliance renders the step taken in wanton disobedience a nullity. For these reasons, we urge Your Lordships to grant all the reliefs sought by the petitioners.”

However, counsel to Utazi, A.J. Offiah, while adopting their written address, said it was filed on July 4, 2019 but dated July 3, 2019, stressing that Utazi also relied on points of law after it was served the petitioners’ written address.

While arguing further that the petitioners, on pages 16-23 of their final written address, put before it evidence meant for the witness box, the counsel declared: “proceedings here witnessed a total abandonment of the case as pleaded by the petitioners, by their failure to produce evidence on the facts pleaded; that’s the scenario.

“That is complete failure; that is total collapse of the case. The petition died on the period evidence. What we are doing here now is the wake-keep, in preparation for the final burial; we are asking the court to dismiss the petition.”

Counsel to PDP, Mr. Anthony Ani, said he had filed a final written address on July 24, 2019.

“We raised four issues for determination; we adopt the said final written address as our argument.”

Ani also accused the petitioners of giving evidence from the bar, in the course of their final written address, under the veil of analysis, adding; “What we are saying is what they say in Anglican Prayer Book: they have left undone those things which they ought to have done and done those things which they ought not to have done. It is for this reason we pray your lordships to dismiss this petition.”

INEC’s counsel, Mr. N.H Ogba toed the same line in a final written address dated July 2, 2019 and filed same day, as well as a reply on points of law dated July 16, 2019 but filed on July 19, 2019.

“The court should dismiss the petition as the petitioners failed to prove substantial non-compliance. They also failed to prove that the 1st Respondent did not get the lawful votes cast in the election,” the INEC submitted.

After listening to their submissions, the tribunal, led by Hon. Justice H.H Kerang, fixed judgment for September 3, 2019.

In Makurdi, counsel to PDP, Mr. Mue, told the tribunal that Steven Lawani’s petition against the election of Senator Abba Moro has been so discredited that petitioners’ witness statements were substantially knocked-off during cross examination.

He explained that he did not call any witness because he could not put anything on nothing, even as he urged the tribunal to dismiss Lawani’s petition in its entirety due to lack of evidence on allegations of malpractice. Mue rested his case on the submission of the counsel to Abba Moro, K C Ikonne, who urged the tribunal not to worry itself about the petition, because it could not stand on two legs.

So far, Lawani has called 13 witnesses with the former deputy governor, Lawani testifying before the Justice A A Adeleye panel.

It would be recalled that on two occasions, Lawani’s applications for additional witnesses and additional witness statements were thrown out by the tribunal, because the applications were filed after the expiry of the 21 days stipulated for such motions.

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