JUDGMENT DAY: ENUGU GOV KNOWS FATE TOMORROW
The Enugu State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Enugu has fixed tomorrow, September 21, 2023 for judgment in a Governorship Election Petition involving Mr. Chijioke Edeoga and Gov. Peter Mbah.
CITY LAWYER recalls that the Tribunal sitting in Enugu had reserved judgment on the matter brought by Edoga, the governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP), challenging the victory of Peter Mbah, candidate of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 18, 2023 gubernatorial poll in the state declared by the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC).
Justice Murayo Akano-tribunal, after taking the final addresses of the petitioners and respondents, reserved judgment for a date-to-be communicated to the parties.
Mbah had during the trial poked holes in the allegations of forgery of his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharged certificate, over-voting, and falsification of results.
There was also a drama in court as the Respondents – Mbah, PDP, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – opposed application by the petitioners to amend their prayer in their final written address seeking to be declared winners of the Rivers State governorship election rather than Enugu gubernatorial election.
In adopting his final written address before the Justice M. K. Akano-led tribunal, Mbah, through his counsel led by Wole Olanipekun SAN, described the petitioner’s reliance on NYSC discharge certificate as of “no moment.”
Olanipekun argued that not only should the issue of NYSC discharge certificate not have arisen in the first place since it is neither a qualification for the position of governor as listed in Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) nor an educational qualification, which could be considered as a document required in aid of qualification, the petitioners also failed to prove a case of forgery against him.
His words: “The fact that NYSC certificate is not a requirement for contesting election to the office of governor is one that has been judicially settled. And in this regard, we refer your Lordships to the Court of Appeal decision in Obi-Odu v. Duke (2005).
“The gross and net effect of the legal reality that NYSC certificate is not a requirement for qualification to hold office as governor is that the mens rea (knowledge/intention) of the alleged offence as pleaded has not been proven and also that the entire point is non sequitur.”
Furthermore, citing several judicial authorities, the final written address equally argued that NYSC certificate, not being an educational qualification or a qualification for the office of Governor, Dr. Mbah did not refer to it in the affidavit he deposed in the submission of his INEC form and therefore could not be counted against him.
“Thus, where no reference is made at all to a document, even if accompanying an affidavit, that document is indeed an orphan, and sadly so,” they said.
Mbah’s counsel pointed out that the petitioners’ witnesses from the NYSC testified against the petitioners and in favour of Mbah by admitting that the NYSC mobilised the governor for national service, approved his suspension of service to go for his Law School programme, and also reposted him to Udeh & Associates to complete his service after the Law School.
They held that having fulfilled the obligations, it was mandatory on the NYSC to issue Mbah with a certificate, hence the case of forgery could not have arisen.
“The fact that the petitioners themselves tendered a certified true copy of the said certificate certified by NYSC themselves, puts a lie to the claim of forgery, because prima facie shows that they hold a copy of it and that NYSC is the custodian.
“NYSC certified a true copy of what is in its custody. PW1 (NYSC Director) tried to put forward a narrative that the discharge certificate was not issued because the Respondent (Mbah) allegedly did not participate in Community Development Service (CDS), suggestive of the fact that withholding the certificate was a penal action, yet, no document of a formal report of absence at CDS, a query to the Respondent, a trial or investigation, and formal communication of sanction to the Respondent was tendered.
“Section 2 of the NYSC Act mandates the NYSC to issue a certificate of national service, using the word ‘shall’. See Bamaiyi v. Attorney General of the Federation (2001) on the mandatory implication of the word ‘shall.’
“Therefore, it cannot be reasonable in a situation where proof must be beyond reasonable doubt to state that such mandatory statutory responsibility was not performed because of a punitive measure, yet no formal record of same was tendered before this honourable tribunal. This is a massive hole in criminal allegation of forgery being advanced by the Petitioners.
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