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Thursday 23: Imo Governorship Tribunal Under Pressure To Sack Uzodimma

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International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) has called on the Imo State governorship election tribunal to order the nullification of the November 11, 2023 Imo election over sundry malpractices and irregularities.

 

Intersociety made the call during a press conference in Enugu State, just as the tribunal is set to deliver its ruling on Thursday.

 

The Imo State Governorship Election Petitions’ Tribunal started sitting in Abuja since January 2024.

The Electoral Court on April 30, 2024 adjourned for judgment (adjournment sine die) to rule on about Seven Applications (cases) before it relating to the controversially conducted November 11, 2023 Imo Governorship Election.

 

 

Sitting in Abuja (FCT), the three-member panel is led by Justice O. Akintan Osadebay.

 

The tribunal’s ‘adjournment sine die’ followed the adoption of briefs by Lead-Counsels to the Petitioners (PDP, LP, etc.) and Respondents (INEC, APC, etc.), during which the Petitioners through their Lead-Counsels including Johnson Usman, SAN, cried out over “refusal of INEC to comply with the Order of the Court (Tribunal) issued since Jan 26, 2024 to make available to the Petitioners relevant materials used by INEC in the said poll.”

 

The materials sought had included the CTCs of the Voters’ Register from the state’s 27 Local Government Areas; out of which INEC provided those of only seven LGAs.

 

 

 

The lead counsel to the lead petitioners (PDP) also cried out that their client was forced by INEC into spending N5million as “processing fees” and another N4million for “business center photocopying”; and extra N50,000 for “CTCs”; yet in the end, the Commission had nothing to show for it.

 

The two major petitioners in the matter: PDP and LP and their 2023 Imo State Governorship Candidates had asked the tribunal to disqualify the APC governorship candidate (Hope Uzodinma) as having not qualified ab initio to contest in the election by having allegedly failed in law to authenticate his WAEC Certificate said to have been obtained about 42 years ago.

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The two major petitioners therefore prayed the electoral tribunal to declare the next candidate who scored the second largest lawful votes cast as the winner; or in the alternative, nullify the entire election for non-substantial compliance with the provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act as amended and order for fresh one.

 

The chairman of the board of Intersociety, Emeka Umeagbalasi who, addressed the conference with members of the Board Directors, said, “The facts and findings arising from our several investigations obtained before, during and after the widely condemned and rejected 2023 Imo Governorship Poll have shown how supposedly state actor or Government democratic institutions turned themselves into rigging tools in the election: thereby making the Poll “worse of the worst” in Nigeria’s Electoral Process and recent election history.

 

“Despite deployment of nine INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners and scores of INEC’s National Commissioners and several top security chiefs including serving Police DIGs, AIGs and CPs and Military and Spy Police Commanders accompanied by conscripted battalions from police crack squads, SSS, Army, Navy, Air Force and Paramilitaries and Government-controlled militias; the state actor democratic institutions ended up becoming and serving as rigging tools in the shambolic poll and in the end supervised brutal subversion of the sacred electoral wishes of the conscientious Imo voting population.

 

“Intersociety had at different dates in September 2023 written letters and successfully submitted them to Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu; Inspector Gen of Police, Kayode Agbetokun; Chairman, Police Service Commission, Solomon Arase; Director General of SSS, Yusuf Bichi; Chief of Army Staff, Gen Taoheed Lagbaja, National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu; Chief of Defense Staff, Gen Christopher Musa; and Minister of Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo; calling on them to ensure popular, participatory, all-inclusive and credible Governorship Poll in Imo State.

 

 

“As a matter of fact, Intersociety had in a letter to INEC Chairman (Prof Mahmood Yakubu) dated Monday, Sept 25, 2023, called for immediate transfer of Imo REC, Prof Sylvia Agu and eight heads of Imo’s INEC key departments; namely: Emmanuella Okpara (HOD-Voter Education), Mr. Raymond (HOD-ICT), Chinonye Osuji (Public Relations Officer), Dr. Fidelis Uguru (Acting Administrative Secretary), Agnes Elokpo (ICT Department), Okorie Esther (Acting HOD-Operations), Barrister Sunday Nwaigboko (HOD Legal) and Mrs. Gloria Ogbuechi (INEC EO for Nkanu East in the 2023 Governorship Election in Enugu State, now posted to Imo State); and eleven Local Government Electoral Officers (EOs); namely: Emeka Okike Ukpa (Owerri West), Omeje Peter Ikebuchukwu (Nwerre), Nwabisi Theresa (Mbaitoli), Nnebue Adolph (Ezinihitte-Mbaise), Nnonyelum Benjamin (Ngokpala), Okorie Franklyn (Isiala-Mbano), Uzor Chikwendu (Okigwe), Nwachukwu Anyalewechi (Onuimo), Chukwuemeka Blessing (Orlu), Okafor Obiorah (Orsu), Uzoka Emmanuel (Oru East). Their redeployment call had arisen from our investigations and indicting records which found them wanting and publicly distrusted ahead of the Imo Poll.

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“We had in the letter also informed the Commission that “time has come for the Commission to comprehensively address its in-house challenges threatening the impartiality and credibility of the Nov 11, 2023, Imo Governorship Election”.

 

“It is therefore our fear that with the way and manner the Imo State Governorship Election was conducted, if allowed to continue in future elections in Nigeria or any part thereof; credible and popular participation by the citizens including their Fundamental Human Rights to vote or be voted for, and sanctity of the Ballot Box will be gone forever in Nigeria or any part thereof including Imo State. What happened in Imo State on Nov 11, 2023 was nothing more than an armada of electoral fraud and brutal suppression of the sacred electoral wishes of the People of the State which is tantamount to a military takeover; which is why the Judiciary is strongly being called upon to rise to the occasion and do the needful.”

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