The January 14, 2020 Supreme Court verdict on the Imo governorship election may have permanently stripped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of its constitutional duty to reject false election results.
The Court verdict annulled the election of Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP and in his place, named Sen. Hope Uzodinma of APC as the duly elected governor of Imo State was based on results from 388 polling units in favour of the APC candidate that were rejected by INEC.
INEC did not certify the results the Supreme Court relied on to declare Uzodinma governor.
Copies of the results available to The Interview showed a pattern of over-voting, and where the number of votes did not exceed registered voters, the APC garnered 95 percent of the votes.
In all, the 1,903 votes PDP got from the 388 polling units at the center of the election petition, represent less than one per cent of the 213, 695 the APC scored.
There were other discrepancies in the verdict announced by the court.
The witness who tendered the results from 388 polling units told the election tribunal he could only lay his hands on 368 polling unit forms with the results.
Yet the Supreme Court recognised results from all 388 polling units the APC asked for.
The witness, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Hussaini also told the tribunal he could not vouch for the chain of custody of the said duplicate results as required by law, neither was he aware of the contents of the forms.
From court records, he told the tribunal, “I was asked to produce 388 forms EC8As retrieved by police officers.
I have some forms. I don’t have 388 forms. The total number I brought is 368 and I cannot lay my hand on 29 forms”.
Hussaini also told the tribunal, “I cannot know whether there are mutations or tampering in exhibit PPP to PPP366.
When I was posted out of Imo State, other officers remained and continued what I was doing.
Exhibit PPP1 to PPP366 are results handed to me by the admin officers as results from the polling units”.
While the law is silent on what stage, INEC is empowered to reject results due to over voting or other infractions, the Supreme Court verdict in the Imo case has basically made it unlawful for election results to be rejected during collation or by a collation officer.
Section 53, subsection (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 states: “Where the votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceed the number of registered voters in that polling unit, the result of that polling unit shall be declared void by the Commission and another election may be conducted at a date to be fixed by the Commission where the results at the polling unit may affect the overall result in the constituency.”
Subsection (4) states: “Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (2) and (3) of this section, the Commission may, if satisfied that the result of the election will not substantially be affected voting in the area where election is cancelled, direct that a return of the election be made”.
Results from the 388 polling units, which The Interview had obtained show that in Eziama/Okpala Ward, the polling unit at Umuallam village square, there were 462 registered voters.
Yet, the APC recorded 819 votes, which exceeds the entire number of registered voters. The PDP got 7 votes.
Again, in Umuozo Ward, the polling unit at Umuchoko town hall, where there were 367 registered voters, all 367 voters supposedly voted the APC, while an additional four voters chose the PDP.
But the four votes ensured there was over voting at that particular polling unit.
Also, at the Umunkwo Ward, the polling unit at Community Primary School, that had 526 registered voters, the APC scored 526 votes, while PDO had two votes.
A similar pattern can be seen from the results at LA School Obudi II in Obudi/Aro Ward: 591 voters were registered, 586 voted for APC, and nine voted PDP.
Added together the number of recorded votes exceed the number of registered voters by four.
At the Central Assembly Square Umusa II, a polling unit in Obudi/Aro Ward, there only 449 registered voters but the APC managed to score 780 votes with the PDP scoring four votes.
Uzodinma, in his appeal to the Supreme Court alleged that, “It was in the cause of collation of the results at the Ward, Local Government and State levels, that the 3rd respondent (INEC) incorrectly stated the votes of the 1st respondent (Ihedioha) and thus reduced the votes of the petitioner by excluding results from the polling units where the petitioner scored overwhelming majority of the votes cast.”
While the Supreme Court criticised INEC for failing to present the “authentic results” for the elections in the disputed polling units, court records available to The Interview showed that the matter had actually been disposed of at the tribunal where the court ruled that, “The petitioners (Uzodinma and the APC), could not prove their case by adducing credible evidence,” adding that INEC was “under no legal obligation to call evidence in defence of this petition when the evidence called by the petitioners were not credible and cogent enough as to shift the onus to the the 3rd respondent (INEC).”