*Declares NYSC certificate not among requirement for office of governor
*Verdict, victory for democracy, Enugu, says Mbah
*Extends hands of fellowship to opposition
*Labour Party insists judgement absurd, horrific
Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Gideon Arinze in Enugu
The Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting yesterday, upheld the election of Mr. Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the March 18 election.
In his reaction to the ruling, Mbah, lauded the decision of the Tribunal which dismissed the petitions of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and the Labour Party (LP) candidates challenging his victory in the election, describing the decision as victory for democracy and the people of Enugu State.
But Labour Party lamented the judgement, stating that it was like a horror movie that was being played out.
The tribunal that sat in Enugu, dismissed the petition by the candidate of the PRP, Christopher Agu, for being incompetent. On his part, Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party had approached the tribunal to challenge the declaration of Mbah as winner of the election on the grounds that he was not qualified to stand for the election, that he forged his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate as well as had alleged cases of over-voting in Udenu, Nkanu East and Enugu East local government areas.
But delivering the judgment yesterday, the Tribunal chaired by Justice Kudirat Murayo Akano, dismissed the petition for being incompetent.
The tribunal held that the petitioner, Edeoga, also failed to prove his allegation that the PDP candidate, Mbah submitted a forged certificate to INEC.
The tribunal also ruled that the NYSC discharge certificate was not among the requirements for the qualifications of a person for the office of the governor in line with Sections 177 and 138 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
It also held that Mbah was qualified to contest the election, regardless of whether or not he submitted any NYSC discharge certificate, adding that a Senior Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent was a minimum academic qualification for election for the office of the governor in line with Section 177 of the constitution.
The tribunal said given that Mbah did not submit the certificate in, “aid of his qualification” for the office, his election could not be voided on the grounds of non-qualification.”
Furthermore, Akano ruled that contrary to the allegation by Edeoga, Mbah scored the highest number of lawful votes in the election in compliance with the electoral law and that the petitioner also failed to prove that there was a non-use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, (BVAS) during the election in Nkanu East Local Government Area.
Reacting to the ruling, Mbah, lauded the decision of the tribunal.
The governor, who also extended hands of fellowship to the opposition candidates and their political parties, said the task to build Enugu remained a collective one, adding that he was committed to working with all, irrespective of political persuasions.
Addressing the state, at the Government House, Enugu, Mbah said: “This is another memorable day in the anal of our dear state, as the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal affirmed the mandate, which you freely gave to us on 18th of March this year.
“This is victory for Ndi Enugu. It is also victory for democracy.
“It is a victory for massive development for Ndi Enugu. It is a victory for exponential growth for Ndi Enugu. It is a victory for Enugu’s greatness. It is a victory for the ban on Monday sit-at-home. It is also victory for our determination to restore water in all your homes in the next 68 days.”
While thanking God for making the victory possible, Mbah also commended the tribunal for painstakingly dissecting the petitions and, “for coming out with fair and just decision that resonates with Ndi Enugu.”
According to him, “the verdict has further strengthened our confidence in the judiciary as the temple of justice and the last hope of the common man.”
Extending hands of fellowship to his opponents, Mbah said: “There is time for everything under the sun. There is time to strive and time to unite. We all put ourselves forward to serve Ndi Enugu. The people have spoken and the tribunal has also affirmed.
“If service was the motivation, then it is time to rise above partisanship and come together because there is so much work to be done.
“Our arms are wide open and I beckon on my brothers, who ran this race with us, to join us in the onerous task of building a new Enugu State of our dreams.
“In the same vein, I enjoin all our supporters to be magnanimous in victory. Politics is over. Governance began on 29th May when we were inaugurated. It is time to unite.”
Mbah, who reiterated his resolve to deliver on his campaign promises, further stressed that the tribunal’s decision was an elixir to do more, and urged the people to hold him to account on those promises.
“Once more, I immensely thank the good people of Enugu State, who not only believed in us, but also vested their mandate in us. Above all also above, they have stood by us every step of the way.
“I want to assure them that I will work for them with every fibre of my being. I stand by every campaign promise I made as espoused in our Statement of Purpose.
“I also stand by the Citizens Charter that I executed on my first day in office. The Enugu people should hold me to account. I will not let them down,” he added.
Mbah’s victory drew commendations from different groups in the state.
In a statement by Odimma Nsukka, the pan-Nsukka socio-cultural organisation described Mbah’s victory as victory for purposeful leadership and speedy transformation of the state.
The statement signed by the group’s Chairman, Engr. Vita Abba, stated: “We are happy that the Governor Peter Mbah administration has come to stay and Ndi Enugu will sure rejoice. This is a popular mandate.”
Reacting to the judgment, Isi-Uzo, the home local government of the Labour Party candidate said the judgement reflected the popular wish of the people of Enugu State.
A statement by the Chairman of Local Government Council, enjoined Mbah’s opponents to accept his hands of fellowship to move the state forward.
“The good people of Isi-Uzo LGA hold this to be true that justice has been done. It is justice for the good people of Enugu State, who queued under the sun for hours to cast their ballots to unlock the massive vision that Dr. Peter Mbah expressed during his tour of the 68 Development Areas before the election.
“By this judgement, we can rest assured that Enugu State is on a sure-footed and consequential journey to a $30 billion economy, zero poverty headcount, educational transformation, and becoming the preferred destinations for business, investment, tourism, and living.
“We are proud of the foundations our great and amiable governor has laid and urge Ndi Enugu to continue to support him.
“Importantly, we urge Dr. Peter Mbah’s opponents in the last election to take advantage of the wide arm of fellowship he has extended to join hands with him to build an Enugu State that our generation as well as the future generations will be proud of,” the statement added.
Oganiru Ndi Enugu also lent their voice to the judgment, describing the judiciary as the last hope of the common man.
In a statement made available to newsmen in Enugu, the National President of Oganiru Enugu, Engr. Jude Asogwa, expressed satisfaction with not only the judgment, but also what Mbah has been able to achieve in the last 100 days.
“We are happy because the laudable programmes started by the administration can continue unhindered. Sometime before the election, Monsignor Obiora Ike described Mbah as a technocrat on a rescue mission and we are glad that Mbah has demonstrated capacity.
“So, this is essentially victory for the people of Enugu and as you can see from the jubilation across the state, the people are happy,” Asogwa stated.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party yesterday, lamented the judgement of the tribunal, stating that it was like a horror movie that was being played out.
In a statement by the National chairman of the Labour Party, Julius Abure, he said it was horror and another absurdity played out in Enugu.
According to Abure, the tribunal also struck out labour party’s allegation of over-voting, bypass of BVAS while insisting that Mbah was duly elected as governor by majority of lawful and valid votes cast at the election.
He explained that, “Though we will seek redress at the Supreme Court immediately knowing that justice was miscarried in this particular case and that the tribunal judgement cannot stand.
“However, we are worried about the level of degeneration in our judiciary where ridiculous rulings are frequently churned out from the hallowed temple of justice.”
He said, “Our case before the tribunal was a clear case of electoral robbery where we pointed out that in Enugu, after the collation of 16 LGAs out of the 17 LGAs of the state, our candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, was leading with over 11,000 votes, surprisingly, the PDP in Enugu, working in cahoots with the INEC, shockingly and provocatively wrote and awarded to the PDP a whopping 30,000 votes at Nkanu East LGA, the LGA of the PDP candidate.
“We pointed out that the figures from the INEC BVAS, Nkanu East LGA recorded a total number of 15,000 accredited voters on election day. However, when votes were declared, the PDP was allocated a total number of 30,350 votes while a total number of 1,855 was credited to the Labour Party.
“So, we ask, how could INEC have turned out over 33,000 votes in a place where only about 15,000 voters were accredited?
“We had also asked the tribunal to disqualify the PDP candidate for presenting a fake NYSC certificate. The authority of NYSC confirmed that the PDP candidate absconded from service and that the certificate he parades was not issued by them. “Doesn’t that seem like an open and close case? Yet the tribunal saw nothing in a clear case of electoral forgery and perjury.”
He alleged that in the wake of the judgement, Labour Party was aware of series of visits made by Mbah to Aso Rock, “and we also took note of his level of confidence lately.”
According to Abure, the party ignored the ominous signs, “while hoping that the blind Lady of Justice will act impartially but we are shocked with this judicial endorsement.”
He said further, “Labour Party may be weeping today for this travesty of justice meted at us, but we do not know whose turn it would be tomorrow. Evil they say triumph when the righteous keep silent and when they refuse to condemn it.
“We also think that the judiciary has a key role to play in keeping our democracy alive and safe. We therefore call for a concerted effort by all well-meaning Nigerians to guide this all important arm of government and ensure that it is not captured by the state. We must all rise to save our democracy.”, Abure lamented. A