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Gloom in Enugu Govt House

Posted by By PETRUS OBI, Enugu on 2008/01/23 | Views: 434 |

Gloom in Enugu Govt House

Aides to embattled Enugu State governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, wore sullen looks throughout weekend, as lawyers representing the governor engaged in brainstorming sessions, preparatory to filing an appeal against the ouster of their client.

•Chime prepares for Appeal Court •Aides in ‘spiritual retreat’

Aides to embattled Enugu State governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, wore sullen looks throughout weekend, as lawyers representing the governor engaged in brainstorming sessions, preparatory to filing an appeal against the ouster of their client.

Chime, who had earlier collapsed at the venue of the wreath-laying ceremony to mark this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day, was declared sacked by the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Enugu, which nullified his election as governor.

The tribunal also ordered that the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) conduct fresh gubernatorial election in the state within 90 days.
But, counsel to the governor, Mrs. Anayo Justina Offia (SAN), said they would contest the judgment of the tribunal at the Appeal Court.

In tandem, the governor’s lawyers were seen walking briskly, in and out of the Government House grounds, apparently to fine-tune arrangements toward filing an appeal.
Similarly, Sunday Sun observed that Commissioners, Special Advisers and other aides of the governor have been maintaining a low profile, even as insinuations are rife that many of them are now undergoing what sources called “spiritual retreat.”

Delivering the judgment Friday, Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Samuel Otta, had upheld that the candidates of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), Oscar Egwuonwu; Labour Party (LP), Chief Okey Ezea and Dubem Onyia of the Action Congress (AC) proved that the conduct of the governorship election in Enugu did not conform with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

He also held that there were enough evidence to show that there were substantial irregularities, acts of non-compliance and non-voting by the majority of the electorate.
Ottah agreed that “the petitioners have proved that the majority of the voters were denied the opportunity to choose their governor; they have also proved that votes were allotted without an election.”

The tribunal said it was convinced by the evidences given by the 17 witnesses from the 17 local government areas of the state who testified for the DPP candidate that materials for the elections did not arrive on time to allow for any voting.
“We are of the humble view that the election was not conducted substantially in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2006, and that has substantially affected the result of the election. In short, we find merit in this ground of the petition and the prayers sought by the petition are hereby granted.

“The governorship election for Enugu State held on the 14th and 28th of April 2007 is hereby declared a nullity and, therefore, void. The election of the first respondent, Barrister Sullivan Chime as governor of Enugu State is hereby declared invalid as he was not duly elected and returned,” the tribunal held.

Mrs. Offia in a chat with newsmen after the judgment said, “Yes, definitely we are going on appeal. Other than saying that we have good and valid grounds of appeal, I make no other comments because I am not entitled to do so, but we do believe that we have good grounds for appeal.

“And, in that circumstance, provisions of the law will be that the incumbent remains as long as the appeal is there, until the appeal is determined. So, we like to advise that there is really no reason for anybody to get upset or worried or unsettled; it’s a very normal thing for tribunal to give its judgments and it’s also very normal for a party dissatisfied with the judgment to exercise his or her right of appeal and that is what we have decided to do, and we will do it within the statutory time provided,” Mrs. Offia said.

An ostensibly happy governorship candidate of DPP, Oscar Egwuonu, described the judgment as another proof that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.
“It shows transparency and it is yet another hope for democracy. I dedicate this victory to the good people of Enugu State,” he said.

The state party Chairman of the Action Congress, Chief Emeka Nwatu, in his reaction expressed feelings that democracy has triumphed.
“I feel that rule of law has triumphed; I feel happy that the wish of the people has just been upheld by the tribunal; the people of Enugu State have the right to determine who becomes their governor, I feel highly elated and I want to thank the people of Enugu State for this success and the tribunal for their success,” Nwatu said.

Also reacting, the Labour Party candidate, Chief Okey Ezea, commended the judiciary, stating that the judgment was a clear demonstration that the judiciary is out to adhere strictly to electoral principles.
“We will now go back to the field, and this is an opportunity for the people to vote for the candidate that they want. I appeal to the people to go about their normal businesses. But, the Labour Party will continue to fight for the right of the people of Enugu State, which is one man, one vote,” he said.

Earlier, the tribunal had dismissed the petition filed by the APGA candidate, Chief Ugochukwu Agballa, who sought to be declared winner of the election, claiming that he, rather than chime, polled the highest number of votes in the said election.

In dismissing the petition, the tribunal noted that the onus was on the petitioner to produce both the result he claimed was the correct one, as well as the one declared by INEC, saying “But, in this case, the petitioner refused to accept being in possession of the result and made every effort to frustrate the admission of the INEC result in evidence.”

Also dismissed was another petition brought against the governor by the PPA candidate, Mr. Nnamdi Anigbo, on the grounds that he could not prove that he was duly nominated by his party for the said election and should, therefore, not claim to have been denied participation by INEC.

Chime in a statement after the judgment also appealed to the people of the state to remain calm, saying that his mandate is sacred.
He also said: “We shall, in consultation with our lawyers, explore all possible avenues because we are confident that ultimately, history will vindicate the just.”
The governor, however, warned that he would not condone any recourse to unlawful act, as he remained in charge of the state.

“Notwithstanding today’s verdict, our government is still in power and in firm control of affairs in the state.
“Let me warn that much as our administration disavows violence, we will not, at this point in time, condone any acts capable of disrupting the peace we presently enjoy. Any violator or offender, no matter his status, will face the full wrath of the law,” he cautioned.

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