Why Enugu PDP’s Lead Counsel, Anthony Ani, May Not Appear For Peter Mbah At The Tribunal

Peter Mba


As the people of Enugu State, and indeed Nigerians and the entire civilized world get ready for the fireworks and legal spectacle at the Enugu State Elections Petitions Tribunal, information filtering from both camps suggests that the lead counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party in Enugu, Anthony Ani, SAN, may not be appearing in person to defend the party’s candidate, Peter Ndubuisi Mbah.

PDP, our investigations reveal, has found it difficult to put together its response to the petition that Chijioke Edeoga and his party, the Labour Party filed at the tribunal, challenging the victory of Mbah at the March 18 polls as announced by INEC.

According to sources close to the PDP candidate, difficulties in finding crooked Nigerians that would be able to circumvent the herculean challenges posed by the allegation of forgery of the NYSC certificate was top of the list of reasons the filing was delayed till almost the very last second of the 21 days window allowed to submit a reply.

It was gathered that when Mbah met with Enugu PDP’s counsel, Ani, he was told in very clear terms that his was a very difficult case. Ani, we gathered, allegedly also informed Mbah that there was no court that would allow him to become governor, with the case of forgery against him, especially given the evidence already in the public domain.

Mbah, reports say, disagreed with his party’s counsel, and, with his deputy governor-elect, Ifeanyi Ossai, consulted other lawyers, who advised him to institute a case at a High Court in Abuja and allegedly procure a ruling of “no jurisdiction” by the court, a move that, according to those who proposed it, would therefore impossible for the Elections Petitions Tribunal to hear that aspect of the case.

Since the Labour Party went to the tribunal, Enugu PDP has been unsettled by the strength of the petition. At the heart of the petition, outside a serious case of overvoting and vote inflation that happened in the Nkanu East Local Government Area of the state, is an allegation by the Labour Party that the NYSC certificate submitted by Peter Mbah to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was forged.

Two letters of inquiry written the NYSC department in charge of certificates so far returned with similar testimony from the body, saying it did not issue the certificate that Mbah submitted to INEC.  It seems that Mbah, desperate to wriggle himself out of the seemingly impossible legal difficulty, had organized and obtained a ruling over the matter from a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.

In the said ruling, the FCT High Court was said to have declined jurisdiction over the matter. Mbah presented a copy of the two-week-old and suspiciously organized ruling to his legal team asking the lawyers led by Chief Ani to argue before the Tribunal that a court had already ruled on the matter.

But Chief Ani, according to our source, who prefers to be anonymous, objected to using the court ruling. He purportedly told Mbah that it would be unavailing but above all, counterproductive to toe that line. Mbah, on his part, rejected the line of defense which the learned Senior Advocate outlined and advised.

It was a mild drama as the lawyers and the Mbah team continued to argue, back and forth. Our source disclosed that Mbah looked seriously disturbed and continued to punch the air in helpless desperation as the learned silk stuck to his gun. There were also other lines of defense they disagreed on, including how to defend the over-voting and vote-inflation that happened in Nkanu East and other incidents of vote swapping which the Labour Party also alleged with evidence, happened in other local government areas of the state.

“Chief Ani is committed and sincere about defending Mbah, but the SAN does not like that somebody is teaching him his job. He does not also want to present a defense so unethical and incompetent that would ruin his hard-earned reputation in the legal community,” our source added.

An impatient Mbah would however have it his way and thus went on to hire one Alex Iziyion, an Abuja-based Senior Advocate, who was all along on standby, to file the petition. Chief Alex appeared to have accepted to accommodate Mbah’s sentiments as well as the unconventional, if not unethical approach.

Iziyion thus hijacked the processes which we gathered have now been filed.

Although his name appears on the processes that Mbah and PDP filed at the tribunal, Anthony Ani, SAN, has allegedly made it clear that he was not going to make any appearance for Peter Mbah, because he does not believe in the propriety of the strategies adopted, and processes that were eventually filed.

“I regret that my name would still be on the processes,” Ani is said to have lamented.

It has been understood that the major source of sleepless nights for Mbah and his supporters at the PDP has been the unending controversy surrounding his NYSC certificate as every effort that has been made to sweep the scandal under the carpet has failed.

Mbah was recently said to have been rattled when the National Youth Service Corps released a second letter repudiating the certificate he submitted to INEC.

The second letter, which was sent at the request of an Aba-based law firm, was made public, at a time when significant efforts and huge sums of money, have allegedly been deployed to get the NYSC to either recant and reverse itself or alternatively to get the electoral umpire to accept a fresh set of forms and documents to replace the initial one Mbah had submitted.

But it appears that Mbah, unaware that he is moving slower than his traducers, also hit a brick wall at the INEC, which has also issued the certified true copies of all documents filed with it by the PDP candidate to various interested members of the public, the latest of which was released on April 15, 2023.

Although the electoral heist that took place in Nkanu East Local Government Area is said to also be troubling the Enugu disputed governor-elect, he is said to be confident that his lawyers were going to be able to circumvent the legal and procedural landmines in that aspect of the case, using the usual judicial “technicalities.” What he appears not to have found any way around, it the debilitating NYSC forged certificate saga, a burden, the party’s lead counsel that handled the disqualification suit brought against the party in Enugu, by the senatorial candidate of the Africa Democratic Congress (ADC), Comrade Chika Idoko.

Source: Enugu Monitor



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