Imo Tribunal: PDP, Anyanwu, INEC Trade Blame over Alleged Withholding of Documents 

Alex Enumah in Abuja 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), its governorship candidate, Senator Samuel Anyanwu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday traded blame at the Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja over alleged withholding of vital documents relating to the November 11, 2023 governorship election.

The PDP and Anyanwu are challenging the re-election of Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as Imo State Governor.

At Monday’s proceedings, INEC alleged that the petitioners have not met with the condition precedent stipulated in Section 253(2) of the Evidence Act and Order 20 rule 10 of the Federal High Court rules.

The petitioners, through their lead counsel, Mr Johnson Usman (SAN), had accused the electoral body of flouting the order of the court, when it failed to make available to them some electoral materials used for the November 11, 2023 governorship election including the voters’ register.

Usman told the three-member tribunal led by Justice O. Akintan-Osadebay that the commission has refused to produce the election materials after collecting the sum of N5 million from the petitioners as processing fee since January 26, 2024.

The senior lawyer further told the commission that outside the N5 million paid as processing fee, the petitioners equally paid the sum of N4 million to a business centre for the photocopying of the voters’ register.

“On February 7, 2024, INEC said we should pay N50,000 for the CTC which we did and it issued us a receipt,” Usman added.

He lamented that out of the 27 local government areas of the state, INEC only provided the Certified True Copies (CTC) of the voters’ register from seven LGAs.

Meanwhile, the tribunal in its Monday sitting, admitted in evidence, documents representing the entire polling units in the 27 LGAs of the state.

Responding to the alleged withholding of electoral materials, the lead counsel to INEC, A.M Aliyu (SAN), informed the tribunal that the commission had certified the voters’ register in seven out of the 27 LGAs but the petitioners have refused to come and pick them at its Owerri office.

In addition, a Principal Legal Officer of the commission, Nwankwo Onyenyechi, who appeared in honour of the subpoena issued on INEC, told the tribunal that it was the petitioners who instructed the business centre to stop the photocopying of the voters’ register for onward certification by the commission.

“We received a subpoena and the petitioners wrote a letter for the certified true copy of the voters register and other documents.

“After that, we have an understanding with them (petitioners) that they will liaise with a business centre that will photocopy the voters register, which they did.

“Following that understanding, they produced photocopy for seven LGAs which the commission has certified. However, the petitioners asked the business centre to stop production until further notice.

“The voters’ register from the seven LGAs have been certified but the petitioners have not come to pick them up. They are lying in our office in Owerri. We wrote a letter to the petitioners to come, but they have not come over,” Onyenyechi told the tribunal.

In addition, the counsel to INEC, Aliyu, informed the tribunal that the petitioners have refused to comply with the provision of the law for the transmission of the documents as contained in the subpoena issued by the tribunal.

But in all of these, the counsel to the petitioners disagreed with the position of INEC, insisting that the commission flagrantly disobeyed the order of court by refusing to make the voters’ register available to them, after paying the necessary fee.

Meanwhile, the tribunal has adjourned to Thursday, March 21 for the petitioners to close their case.

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