Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
Former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, on Thursday failed once again in his bid to become the senator representing Abia North as the Election Petition Tribunal dismissed his petition and upheld the election of Senator Mao Ohuabunwa.
It was the second time Kalu would go through the same process of challenging the outcome of the senatorial rerun poll and failing to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt having equally lost on the same grounds in his petition challenging the outcome of the 2015 poll at the tribunal.
However, his appeal was successful as the appellate court in Owerri ordered a rerun of the Abia North poll, which he lost again and embarked on another round of litigation.
In the judgment that lasted for over seven hours and read by the Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice James Abundaga, the tribunal held that “none of the allegations contained in the petition was proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Signs that Kalu’s petition was doomed emerged when Justice Abundaga resolved most of the issues raised in the preliminary objections in favour of the first respondent.
The tribunal agreed that the petition challenging the out come of the rerun poll was “ambiguous, imprecise, vague, nebulous and incomprehensible,” adding that the petitioner could not pinpoint where the alleged electoral malpractices took place rather indulged in the expressions, “some polling units, various polling, a number of polling units.”
On the contrary, the tribunal discovered that it was the petitioner that indeed, padded votes by adding 4,200 votes to his score in three wards in Bende Local Government Area. After deducting the extra votes from the 25,814 votes credited to him by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) it left Kalu trailing Ohuabunwa by over 4,000 votes which was added his initial score of 26,009 votes.
Despite the “heavy premium” that the petitioner placed on the evidence given by the forensic expert who claimed that there was evidence of multiple thumb printing of thousands of votes, the tribunal faulted the process used in arriving at the findings and therefore discountenanced it.
It also picked holes in the evidence of the petitioner and his 33 witnesses, saying it did not hold any water as it was full of inconsistencies and false allegations.
On the non-joinder of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as respondent, the tribunal said it “vitiated the petition,” adding that the criminal allegations of electoral malpractices levelled against the party could not be sustained without giving it the opportunity of fair hearing.
To this end, 10 paragraphs in the petition where criminal allegations were made against PDP were consequently struck out thereby further weakening the petitioner’s case.
Meanwhile, Kalu has signified his intention to appeal the tribunal verdict as one of his counsel, Perfect Okorie, told journalists after the judgment that the legal team was not satisfied with the verdict.
But a counsel to Ohuabunwa, Mike Onyeka, said with the detailed judgment by the tribunal, it has become clear that even the devil would agree that Ohuabunwa should be allowed to continue his quality representation of Abia North in the Senate.