A group, Friends of Democracy, has rejected the judgement of the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal which affirmed the declaration of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu as the winner of the Abia-North senatorial poll.
In a statement released on Monday by its coordinator, Okafor Azubuike, the group warned against perversion of justice, insisting that the election was inconclusive.
Candidates of the Labour Party, LP, Nnamdi Iro Orji, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Mao Ohuabunwa, had filed petitions against Kalu’s election as the senator representing Abia-North in the National Assembly.
The petitioners argued that Kalu was not validly elected as the election did not hold in over 120 polling units in Ohafia and Arochukwu local government areas of Abia-North.
But in a unanimous decision on September 12, the three-man panel of the tribunal led by Justice Samson Paul-Gang dismissed the petitions for lacking merit.
The tribunal equally held that Kalu’s election complied with provisions of the Electoral Act.
However, the group, Friends of Democracy, is insisting that, contrary to the tribunal’s decision, the election for Abia-North Senatorial District was marred by irregularities as voting did not take place in several units.
The statement said, “We witnessed the election in Abia-North for the senatorial election. We deployed men to monitor it. The election to every lover of democracy and truth was inconclusive.
“We recorded and knew; the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, knew and said that elections were not held in Isiama Ohafia ward, Okamu Ohafia ward, Agborji Abiriba ward and so many other polling units in Arochukwu/Ohafia Local Government.
The group added that INEC confirmed that elections were not held in the concerned areas, as the electoral officer in Ohafia LGA and the Abia State electoral commissioner announced before journalists that “elections would be held on a fresh date to be announced by the commission”.
The statement added, “On the 26th of February, 2023, the News Agency of Nigeria reported that INEC through its Administration Secretary in Abia, Clement Oha, announced that elections would be held on the 27th of February, 2023 being Monday at ‘various polling units in Aba North, Aba South, Arochukwu, Obingwa, Osisioma, Ohafia and Umuahia North Local Government Areas at 8 a.m’.
“He said the affected polling units had already been communicated.
“Observers at the election like the Head of Coalition of Election Observers, Rasheed Shuaib and Future Leaders Global Institute, Fidelis Nweke, called on INEC ‘to conduct fresh elections in these areas where elections never held and fix a date for rerun election or cancel the elections as a result of irregularities which took place during the collation of the results which is not in line with the new Electoral Act’, as reported by Leadership newspapers.
“The Electoral Act 2022 as amended is very clear that where the winning margin is less than total votes where elections did not hold, another election must be conducted.
“In the case of Abia-North Senatorial Election, INEC declared the APC candidate the winner with 3000 votes, whereas the total number of registered voters in the areas where election did not hold were almost 50,000 voters.
“Despite available evidence and oral and written testimonies, the tribunal did not take them into account.”
Noting that Labour Party candidate Nnamdi Iro Orji has vowed to challenge the tribunal’s ruling, the group urged the judiciary to ensure that justice is done.
“While the complainant has the right to appeal and has vowed to do so, we warned that the judiciary is seen as the last hope of the common man and must not destroy that hope.
“The preservation of democracy is attainable when justice is not only done but has been seen by all to have been done.
“Nigerian democracy is facing serious threats. If the court decides to promote these threats, people may be forced to take laws into their hands.
“The court must not allow those questionable characters who feel election is a win or die enterprise and deployed looted funds to perpetuate violence and deploys such ill-gotten wealth to pervert justice in court to have their way in court.
“There must be true hope for not only the common man but the innocent man who although poor and ignorant deserves the preservation of his right and what’s due to him.
“The decision of the tribunal, although late, is not only questionable but sad because the court has been in the eye of the storm for many inconsistencies despite clearly established precedence.
“The appeal court has the duty not only to Abia-North people who braved the threats to their lives and properties to turn out to vote but Nigerians in order to strengthen their confidence in the judiciary.
“The court cannot order a rerun in Eti Osa Local Government of Lagos State where the winning margin was 4,000 and with total registered voters less than 21,000 where elections did not hold and ignore that in Abia-North. It’s a clear case of behind-the-scenes negotiation that must not be allowed to stand.
“We call on all people in Abia-North not to lose hope but to be confident that they will ultimately triumph when the court of appeal sits to consider the merit of the case.
“The beneficiary of this injustice who’s celebrating should not celebrate yet because the will of the peoples must be respected and will triumph in the end,” the statement added.