The National Assembly/State Houses of Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Enugu was, Monday told that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) allegedly announced the Enugu North senatorial district election result even before the final collation.
The petitioner and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election, Barr. Eugene Odo, through his counsel Mr. H.A Bello, stated this while adopting his final address before the tribunal.
The counsel told the 3-man tribunal that the election ought be to quashed over the INEC’s alleged failure to comply with the provisions of its own guidelines, as well as the Electoral Act.
Odo is challenging the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the election, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, and the INEC, that declared Utazi winner in the February 23 election.
The petitioners had, through their lead counsel, Bello, said they had filed a composite final written address dated July 12, 2019, adding that “we intend to adopt same as our final arguments on this matter.”
“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.”
Earlier, the counsel to the Senator Utazi (1st Respondent,) Barr. A.J. Offiah, while adopting their written address, said it was filed on the 4th day of July, 2019 but dated 3rd July, 2019.
He said Utazi also filed reply on points of law after it was served the petitioners’ written address.
Offiah told the tribunal that the petitioners, on pages 16-23 of their final written address, put before the Tribunal evidence meant for the witness box.
She added that “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.”
Also, the PDP while adopting its own address, through Barr. Anthony Ani, said he filed final written address on 4th day of July, 2019.
“We raised four issues for determination, we adopt the said final written address as our argument.
The INEC counsel, Barr N.H Ogba, toed the same line in a final written address dated 2nd of July, 2019 and filed same day, as well as a reply on points of law dated 16th July, 2019 but filed on 19th July, 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 judgement for 3rd September, 2019.