The Campaign Council of the Enugu State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has disagreed with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on its decision to suspend the announcement of the final results and declaration of Dr. Peter Mbah as the winner of the Enugu State governorship contest, stressing that the election management body was overreaching itself, as it could not, by law, suspend the declaration of an already collated result.
The PDP equally also said INEC was wrong to present the Abia and Enugu cases as the same.
The party stated these at a press conference addressed by the spokesperson of the Enugu State PDP Campaign Council in Enugu on Monday.
The PDP said: “Putting the Abia and Enugu situations in one basket clearly shows that the national headquarters of INEC is mixing things up or has not been properly briefed. There is absolutely nothing like outstanding local governments as far as the collation process in Enugu State is concerned.
“Unlike the situation in Abia State, the results of the entire 17 LGAs of Enugu State, including those of Nkanu East and Nsukka LGAs, have been fully collated by the Returning Officer, Prof Maduebibisi Ofo Iwe, on Sunday the 19th of March. What remains for the INEC is to sum up the returns by the Local Government Returning Officers and declare our candidate, Dr. Mbah the governor-elect.
“That is why we are saying that INEC is overreaching itself; they have no powers at this stage to suspend the pronouncement or declaration of the winner of the election, which is our candidate.
“Section 64(8) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that where collation has been completed as in the present case of Enugu State, the duty of the collation officer, who collated the result is to announce the result and make a declaration. Therefore, having collated the results from Nsukka LGA and Nkanu East LGA, the statutory duty and legal responsibility of the State Returning Officer is simply to announce and declare the results, as INEC cannot, by law, suspend the declaration of result already collated”.
On issues relating to accreditation and votes cast in a polling unit and the fate of such votes where they exceed the number of accredited voters in such units, the PDP said such are guided by Section 51(2) of the Act.
“The position of the law is that a Returning Officer has no power to cancel any results at the stage of collation. The only option open to any person dissatisfied with the process is to resort to Section 130(1) of the Electoral Act, which vests the power to receive and adjudicate petitions complaining of an undue election or undue return in an election in the tribunal or court.
“As a matter of fact, we are dissatisfied with the result from Nsukka Local Government Area. We are dissatisfied with the results from Udenu, Isi-Uzo, Ezeagu, and more. But is not for us to take the laws into our hands or indulge in self-help. That is why we are ready to go and interrogate those results at the appropriate quarters because we can no longer complain as the collation has been completed.
“INEC cannot choose the ones you will collate to release the result and the ones you will collate and withhold the result”, the PDP emphasised.
“We believe that the Returning Officer for Nkanu East Local Government Area has duly complied with the provision of Sections 64(4)(a)&(b) and Section 64(a)&(d) of the Electoral Act 2022.
”We consequently restate our position that the only option left to INEC acting through the State Returning Officer for the Enugu State Governorship Election under Section 64(8) of the Electoral Act 2022 is to announce the results and make a declaration of the winner of the election.
“We therefore call on INEC to immediately announce the summation of the 17 local governments it has already collated and declare Dr. Peter Ndubisi Mbah the winner of the March election”, the PDP reiterated.
The PDP also expressed worries that the INEC was already overheating the Enugu polity by the needless delay in the pronouncement of the winner of the governorship election.
“We will continue to caution that INEC should not take the patience of the electorate and people of Enugu for granted. We know what it took us today to rein in their voluminous anger as it relates to the delay in the declaration of Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah as governor-elect and we are calling on the INEC to cease forthwith this foot-dragging and declare our candidate the duly elected candidate in the last election” the PDP stressed.
The party also condemned what it described as desperate and hypocritical approach of the Labour Party to the elections.
“In the instance, our Enugu East senatorial candidate lost his election to return to the Senate to the Labour Party. It was the same process that produced the result that gave Labour Party the victory that also produced the winner of the governorship election in the Nkanu East in the same senatorial zone. But while the Labour Party has accepted the result for the Senate, they are contesting the governorship that the same process produced. This is hypocrisy”, the party concluded.