No fewer than 30 Civil Society Organisations and human rights groups have called for the arrest and prosecution of the immediate past governor of Ebonyi State and Senator representing Ebonyi South Zone, for allegedly forging the BVAS report of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Rising from their press conference, on Friday, in Abuja, the CSOs lamented the development signalled danger on the nation’s democracy and the rule of law, urging relevant agencies to investigate the matter and bring culprits to justice.
Recall a two-term House of Representatives member who represented the Ohaozara/Onicha/Ivo Federal Constituency and Senatorial Candidate of the Labour Party in the February 25 National Elections, Hon. Linus Okorie, had approached the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, seeking to be declared the rightful winner having scored the highest number of valid votes.
He’s also arguing that Umahi was not nominated through a valid primary of any known political party in Nigeria.
It was gathered that there are allegations of conflicting Certified True Copies of electoral documents, especially BVAS reports, issued by INEC to opposing parties in the same petitions before tribunals across the country.
The coalition of CSOs, led by the
Executive Director of
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani,
compressed Accountability Lab, Nigeria; African Centre for Media and Information Literacy; Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress; BudgIT Foundation; Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre; Corporate Accountability and Public
Participation Africa; HEDA Resource Centre; State of the Union; Tax Justice and Governance Platform; Transition Monitoring Group; Women in Media Communication Initiative; Zero Corruption Coalition; Alliance for Credible Elections; Centre for Democracy and Development; Partners on Electoral Reform, among others.
According to them, “Case in point is the Ebonyi State National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal where the immediate past governor of Ebonyi State/Senator for Ebonyi South Senatorial District, Engr David Nweze Umahi, has been accused of presenting a forged CTC of the BVAS Accreditation Report and Compliance Certificate to the Tribunal in defense of cases challenging his election.
“In a petition against him and other named persons to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) by his Labour Party opponent, Linus Okorie; Umahi was alleged to have procured the said BVAS Report and Certificate of Compliance from the ICT Department of the INEC Headquarters. However, by a letter attached to the petition, the CTC Report and Compliance Certificate were denied by the Secretary to the Commission as not AUTHENTIC; in other words, not from the Commission.
“The concern is that a cartel may be operating within the INEC Headquarters and conniving with desperate politicians to churn out fake/forged documents of the Commission, as in this instance, with the intent to pervert justice at the ongoing election tribunals across the country.
“The import of such a criminal conspiracy is grave on the integrity of the eventual judicial decisions and the overall development of a credible electoral process in the country. We Call for immediate and comprehensive investigation of the petition mentioned by the police to unravel the identities of any cartel in INEC engaging in the criminal manipulation of official documents and to ensure the prosecution of anyone indicted.
“All these have destroyed the hope and confidence of citizens in the commitment, independence and competence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct free, fair and credible elections. This is a major impediment to the growth of our democracy.”
Okorie , had on realising the CTC of the BVAS report of the election being peddled by his major opponent, Engr Umahi before the tribunal, wrote to INEC for confirmation. The Electoral umpire, in reply, confirmed he had the authentic CTC, while Umahi’s was non-authentic.
The INEC letter, had read, “Your letter dated May 18, 2023, on the above subject matter refers
“The Commission wishes to confirm that the BVAS Report attached to your letter as Annexure “A” is authentic.”
The LP Senatorial Candidate’s letter to INEC dated May 18, 2023 and signed by Alex Akoja, Esq, his Solicitors’ Lead Counsel, had read partly, “Our Client is embarrassed that two diametrically different Certified True Copies (CTC) of the same document are coming from your Commission, although signed by two different persons at different times. The one given to our Client is first in time
and is marked as Annexure “A”.
“It is on this premise that our Client has instructed us to write you to urge to use your good offices to cause an investigation into this situation and to confirm to us which of the two Certified True Copies is the authentic.”
Efforts to reach the former governor for comment, on the situation, failed. He neither picked his calls nor respond to inquiries to his mobile, as of the time of filing this report, on Friday night.