ELECTION TRIBUNAL: Uneasy calm in Abia Labour Party as INEC headquarters Abuja, confirms non – submission of party register

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Continuation of hearing, resumed on Thursday, 10th August, 2023 in the Abia State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal brought by Chief Okey Ahiwe, challenging the declaration of Mr. Alex Otti as winner of the 18th, March, 2023 governorship election.

*One of the INEC subpoenaed witnesses, Barr. Hadizat Abubakar, sent by Abuja, National Headquarters of INEC, confirmed on oath that, Abia State Labour Party did not submit its party membership register to INEC, 30 days before the purported gubernatorial primary election.

*The Witness who presented evidence on behalf of the Abuja, National Headquarters of INEC, said she works in the Election Party and Monitoring Department of INEC, Abuja. She relied on her written deposition and adopted same as her evidence before the Tribunal.

Chief Okey Ahiwe,PDP Governorship Candidate
Chief Okey Ahiwe,PDP Governorship Candidate

*During her oral evidence, she tendered the six (6) documents, mentioned in paragraph (4A-F) as listed in her written deposition and a, 7th document, which is the authority letter issued to her by INEC, National Headquarters, Abuja, authorising her to testify on its behalf.

*Upon cross examination by lawyers to the Respondents, Barr. Hadizat maintained that documents must be authenticated from their records before National Headquarters will certify them. She insisted that she was at the Tribunal on official capacity because of the subpoena and has no personal opinion on the matter. The Subpoenaed witness also agreed that INEC has State offices but that the Abuja, National Office controls all other INEC State Offices and Formations.

* Another Petitioner’s Witness, (PW16), also a Subpoena Witness adopted her written deposition affirming that Abia State Labour Party did not conduct any gubernatorial primary election. She tendered her ID card and letter of authority from INEC and relied on same as her evidence before the Court. She confirmed working in the Legal Drafting and Clearance Department of INEC.

*Upon cross examination, she was confronted by Otti’s lawyer with a letter and payment receipt which she also confirmed signing as INEC’s report, confirming it monitored Labour party gubernatorial primary election. Meanwhile, the said document has no name, undated and unsigned.

*The Witness, PW16, contradicted herself as she has already tendered in evidence and adopted same on oath, a report certified by INEC National Headquarters, Abuja confirming it didn’t monitor any congress, convention or primary election of Abia Labour Party. The INEC, Abuja authenticated letter has a reference number, name and date.

*Upon close perusal of the documents which Otti’s lawyer confronted the witness with, it was discovered that the controversial report claiming to confirm a purported Abia Labour Party gubernatorial primary election has neither an official reference number, name, date, nor signature and it emanated from INEC office in Abia State instead of the Abuja, National Headquarters that deals directly with political parties, thereby, rendering it a nullity.

*However, the said documents were tendered as exhibit, while the Petitioner’s lead counsel Prof. Paul Ananaba SAN, who led other Senior Advocates like, Elder Chibuike Nwokeukwu, Emeka Okpoko, Chief Henry Akunebu, Sir, Chief Uche Ihediwa and others, objected most vehemently to admitting the said documents and to give reasons for their objection during written address.

*On the sideline after the court proceedings, Barr. E. Ekeh, who has been following the matter was of the opinion that Labour Party and Alex Otti are curiously seeking to override the authority of the National Headquarters of INEC by conjuring unsigned and undated documents from Abia State INEC office to counter the superiority of certified true copies from INEC’s Headquarters in Abuja. He called the controversial document an after-thought from the Respondents which they smuggled in, even as they didn’t plead it in their reply to the Petitioners petition.

*He also said that his sources told him,(subject to confirmation), that Labour Party is in a desperate move to hurriedly manufacture an emergency, fake Party Register endorsed by a compromised Abia State INEC office into the matter as their defence.

*Barr. Ekeh insisted that the information about the fake party membership register should be quickly investigated and exposed urging the Petitioners to be vigilant as Equity aids the vigilant not the indolent, “Vigilantibus non Dormientibus Aequitas Subvenit.”

*He concluded by saying “with what happened today, it is now obvious that Alex Otti and Abia Labour Party is in a Cul De Sac as all their attempts to manufacture an emergency Party Membership Register to subvert the cause of justice have hit a brick wall”.

*Matter was adjourned to 11th, August, 2023.

@ Oracle

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