Anambra Guber: Voter register flawed, collation suspect, Observers tell Tribunal

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·        ‘ Presiding Officers were APGA members’ 
     By Ada Bosa
An Abuja-based umbrella non-governmental organisation, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) on Thursday, before the Anambra State Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Awka, expressed doubt about the authenticity of the Anambra State voter register used in the conduct of the 16th November 2013 Gubernatorial Elections and the credibility of the collation of result.
PLAC is the host of the ‘Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room’, embodying 50 registered non-governmental organisations that jointly observed the 16th and 30th November 2013 Gubernatorial elections.
Testifying on Thursday as PW3 (Third petitioner’s witness) in the matter, Mr Edwin Onoja, Programme Officer of PLAC who attended the sitting based on a subpoena issued by the Tribunal, dated March 6, 2014 and served on his organisation on March 12, 2014, explained that PLAC co-rdinated many observer groups under the same umbrella to square up with the manpower need of the polls, said his organisation has since submitted all the reports to INEC after the elections.
The arrival of Onoja created fierce arguments on Wednesday stretching over three hours  from 2.30pm to 5.50pm when the Tribunal adjourned to enable it rule on the third in the line of objections from defence lawyers, regarding the admissibility of the reports of the umbrella civil organisation as evidence.
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The reports numbering three, were on resumption Thursday admitted in evidence and marked ‘P.370.1-3’ comprised one interim report on the 16th November 2013elections, one final report and one statement of the umbrella organisation made on 30th November 2013 (Supplementary Election Day) .The subpoena ,on the basis of  which the organisation was appeared to testify in the Tribunal summoned had earlier been admitted in evidence and marked as ‘Exhibit  P.368’, while the letter of accreditation issued to them by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to serve the elections had also admitted and marked ‘Exhibit P.369’..
Part of the interim report reads: ‘We note that their has been reports of reports on the turn-out of voters based on the crowd milling around some poling station’
Our field reports confirm from the actual accreditation figures in most polling booths that in most polling stations, the actual accredited voters fell far short of the number of registered voters in the respective centres’.
In its final report, PLAC stated : ‘Our network of observers noted that some voters could not find their names in their voters register in many polling units, particularly in Idemili North LGA.
‘The Situation Room is worried that widespread cases of missing names in the voter register questions the integrity of the accreditation process and authenticity of the voter register.’
The final report added that ‘Reports received by the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room indicates a low voter turnout ,although various reports in the media suggest a high turn-out, based on sometimes large crowds milling around the polling units.’
The report went ahead to take a hard knock n the credibility of the collation process of local government resuts at the state level,The situation room is worried that INEC is not publicly announcing the results coming in from the local government areas to the state collation centre. We are aware that the collation phase is the weakest link in the election process in Nigeria’observed the report.
The third report covering the Supplementary Polls of 30th November 2013 wrote in its conclusion that ‘the election was peaceful, but voter turn-out was very low, as low as 5% in several of the poling units that Situation Room observed’.
Five other witnesses Anekwe Felix Chukwuemeka (PW4) from Umueze Anam,Anambra West LGA; Madu
Nzubechukwu Lawrence (PW5) from Ukpor in Nnewi South LGA; Okereke (PW6) from Ogbaru LGA; Ndubisi Dickson Egeonu from Nnobi in Idemili South LGA  and Ngozi Udodi from Alor,also in Idemili South LGA also gave testimonies in the Tribunal on incidents of large number of voters not finding their names in the voter register on presentation of their cards to INEC  Presiding Officers in heir respective poling units, centres and wards on the election day.
Another prime witness, Hon. Uche Okonkwo-Okom  has told the  Anambra State Election Petition Tribunal that virtually every Presiding Officer that worked in the elections of 16th November in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State were all members of the ll progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
Hon Okonkwo –Okom was testifying  on Thursday as the PW9 ( ninth prosecution witness) in the second petition filed by Senator Chris Ngige  and APC seeking outright cancellation of the 16th,17th and 30th November polls, told the Tribunal that by the time he arrived the Materials Distribution Centre  for the local government, hours after the beginning of the elections, on 16th November 2013,when he had been accredited in his polling booth, materials for Okoh 1,Okoh 2, Ufuma 1 and Ufuma 2 materials were still lying at the centre unmanned and unreleased.
Okonwo-Okom said in answer to a question by Onyebuchi Ikpeazu, SAN Counsel to Willie Obiano the Third Respondent in the suit said ‘Super RAC’ in my understanding is a new word in Nigerian Election dictionary that was introduced as smaller units than local governments to make materials distribution easier and more timely, but they turned out to be bribe-distribution centres for APGA in the election’.
He however said while answering a question by Gboyega Awomolo, Counsel for INEC that he did not come to the tribunal with any call log of the calls he made on the election of 16th November 2013.
Asked by Patrick Ikwueto ,SAN, Counsel for APGA to tell the Tribunal who the Local Government Chairman for Orumba North comes from ,against Okonkwo-Okom’s claim tat the area he oversaw during the lections is a stronghold of APC,Okonkwo averred : ‘My lord, the last time local Government Elections were held in Anambra State was in the year 2002’. Adding that ‘APC did not participate in what took place January this year in the name of Local Government Elections’. Further hearing has been adjourned till Monday, shortly after the Tribunal refused the application of Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN to continue hearing on Friday 28TH March 2014, electing to keep the day clear for Dr Chike Obidigbo’s petition (01).
Akeredolu had pleaded that haring should continue on Friday and Saturday 28th and 29th March because ‘the tribunal is running out of time’ asking ‘Why can’t we come tomorrow, since Dr Obidigbo has only two witnesses outstanding and again why not Saturday, because  my lord we are running out of time’.
Tribunal Chairman Bello however ruled to continue on Monday (31st March,) noting that on subsequent weekends, ‘the tribunal could sit on Saturdays’.
He added: ‘Let me assure everyone of you that these pet ions will be determined in good time by April or May’.

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