Nnamani vs Nnaji :Drama at tribunal as INEC’s counsel disowns employer’s document

Nnaji and Nnamani

Ahead of the March 28 National The senatorial segment of the polls in the district paraded political bigwigs.The candidates were a former governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, of the Peoples Democratic Change (PDC), incumbent Gil Nnaji of the Peoples Democratic Party,PDP, a former National Chairman,Association of Local Governments Chairmen, ALGON,Nwabueze Okafor, of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA,Ben Nwoye,State Chairman, All Progressives Congress, APC, who was the party’s candidate.

The election later became a two-horse race between Nnaji and Nnamani.

The result of the poll, as declared by INEC, showed that PDP won with 69,544 votes against PDC’s 57,528..
The declaration elicited protests in Enugu metropolis.

But Nnamani calmed frayed nerves, assuring protesters he will challenge the result at the tribunal.

HEARING BEGINS
Drama ensued as hearing began in the case in which the former Engu governor is challenging the result when the lawyer representing INEC rejected a document issued by the commission
Mr. Benson Ibezim, stunned the tribunal when he rejected a certified true copy of a document issued by INEC, saying it could not be admitted in evidence for doubtful authenticity and competence of the INEC Legal Services Department to endorse it.

The counsel to INEC, third respondent in the petition, told the tribunal he was “in the same boat” with Nnaji and the PDP in objecting to the admission in evidence of a certified true copy of the card reader polling unit accreditation report, even though it was signed by the Director of Legal Services of the electoral commission.

Counsel to the petitioner, Mr. O. Jolaawo, who had earlier tendered four documents for admission in evidence without objection by the respondents, had further sought to tender in evidence the card reader polling unit accreditation report generated by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Department of INEC for the presidential/National Assembly elections and signed by the Director of Legal Services of INEC.

This was, however, met with stiff objection by the lead counsel to Nnaji, Mr. P.I.N. Ikwueto, SAN, and that of the PDP, Mr. P.M.B. Onyia, saying it did not meet the requirements of the Evidence Act as the INEC Director of Legal Services, who signed the document, was not competent to do so, not being an ICT expert.

Ojolaawo, who immediately faulted the INEC lawyer joining respondents in objecting to a document duly signed by the commission, urged the tribunal to disregard his objection. He averred that even though the counsel to INEC was defending the election in dispute, he could not object to documents authenticated by the commission.
Following an admonition by the chairman of the tribunal, Justice M.O Adewara, Ibezim, however, apologised, promising to desist from objecting to duly certified documents submitted by the commission.

The petitioner’s counsel, in his reply to the objection, insisted that the document met all requirements of the Electoral Act as well as the Evidence Act, arguing further that the INEC Director of Legal Services duly signed the certified report generated by the commission’s ICT Department. He said the certified true copy was in addition backed by a certification by INEC that the document complied with Section 84 of the Evidence Act, for which he paid and also attached the receipt, adding that it was pleaded in the petition and listed among the documents to be tendered in evidence.

In his ruling, Justice Adewara agreed with the petitioner that the certified true copy of the report was accompanied by authentication certificate, dated 15th May 2015 and signed by Mrs. Nnenna A. Essien, Head of Section, Data Warehousing, ICT Department, INEC Headquarters, Abuja, as required by Section 42 of the Evidence Act. He held that unlike the case relied upon by the respondents in objecting to the admission of the report in evidence which was not backed with the authentication certificate, Nnamani complied with the requirements of Section 84 of the Evidence Act.

The tribunal chairman held further that the report was relevant, pleaded in the petition and admissible in evidence. He therefore dismissed the objection as lacking in merit and ruled in favour of the petitioner. The report was subsequently admitted and marked as Exhibit CRD1.

CROSS EXAMINATION
Contradictory deposition characterised the PDP’s defense at the hearing as a local government collation agent, a witness, whose signature and date on the result sheet showed March 28, said collation started in the wee hours of March 29.

Ebe Eric Chidiebere, collation agent for the PDP in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area where PDC is alleging inflation of results, who took the witness box, confirmed certified true copies of the voters register used in the election for the council area during cross examination by counsel to the petitioner.

However, his evidence stood on its head when he was shown copies of the voters register used in some polling units that had no voting ticks contrary to INEC election manual which stipulates that any voter issued ballot paper must have his name ticked.

Ebe agreed that there were no voting ticks even as he read out to the court, the portion of the election manual which stipulates that any voter issued ballot paper must have his name ticked.

He was also shown the card reader data and result sheets for those polling stations where there were no ticks in the voters register.

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