A group known as Abia Renaissance Movement (ARM), has accused the Abia State governor, Dr Alex Otti and the Labour Party (LP) of planning to present forged documents to the State Election Petition Tribunal as part of their defence in the going court case.
The group alleged that Otti and LP will present to the tribunal, fabricated letters purported to have been written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a covering note for its membership register it claimed it submitted to the Commission.
The group made the allegation in a statement signed by its Convener, Ukachukwu Chinonso and the Secretary-General, Mrs Maria Nwokoma.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Chief Okey Ahiwe, is challenging the declaration of Otti as winner of the in the March 18 election in Abia State.
ARM said it based its claim on the declarations of Counsels to Mr Alex Otti and the Labour Party during the proceedings of August 11 2023.
The group’s statement is part reads: “We wish to bring to the notice of INEC, security agencies, and members of the public, about plans by the Labour Party (LP) in Abia State to deliberately mislead the Abia State Election Petition Tribunal in the case brought against LP by PDP’s Chief Okey Ahiwe, by presenting fabricated documents at the tribunal.
“At the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, August 11, 2023, Mr Alex Otti and Labour Party’s lawyers showed a letter purportedly written by LP to INEC and a payment receipt, to one of the witnesses who admitted signing it but which, on a closer look, had no name, date or even signature.
“This is upon the fact that the said documents did not emanate from INEC headquarters in Abuja as it ought to be but from INEC office in Abia State whose staff, we believe could either be compromised or intimidated.
“As clearly stated in court by the subpoenaed staff from INEC Headquarters, Abuja, Barr Hadizat Abubakar, all INEC documents relevant to the matter must be authenticated by the records department of the electoral body and certified by INEC Headquarters, Abuja.
“It is important to state at this point that Barr Abubakar presented an authority letter from INEC headquarters as being officially detailed to represent it at the hearing with the necessary documents required. She went further to inform the court that Abia State Labour Party did not submit its membership register to INEC 30 days before its purported primary election as required by law.
“Jolted by this development, agents of Abia State Labour Party are suspected to be shopping for a pliant senior staff of INEC in Abuja to give a stamp of authenticity to a letter, which they hope to backdate, and present same in court as the letter purportedly submitted with their party membership register to INEC.
“Our intelligence report has it that the pliant INEC staff they intend using to perpetrate this judicial malevolence is also from Abia State and has been reportedly promised to be installed Governor after Alex Otti. Plans have therefore been concluded to subpoena him to appear and give testimony at the tribunal where all the fabricated documents will be presented as having emanated from INEC Headquarters, Abuja.
“Our suspicion grows even stronger when lawyers to Alex Otti, during last Thursday’s hearing, asked Barr Hadizat Abubakar if she was aware of some letters written to INEC by the Labour Party submitting their membership register to which she responded that Abia State Labour Party did not submit such a register. The lawyers then said they were going to present letters written to INEC Chairman in respect of the register.
“This ploy is to make it look like the Staff of the Commission’s headquarters who has closed her testimony, saying that the Labour Party did not submit their membership register, was not aware that the party wrote the Chairman directly.
“Based on the foregoing, we urge INEC, security agents, relevant judicial officers and members of the public to be alert to such machinations and manipulations.
“We call on INEC to call its staff to order and ensure that none of them allows him/herself to be used to derail justice.
“On our part, we shall remain vigilant and ensure that should such shenanigan be entertained, all those involved shall be petitioned to relevant security agencies for diligent prosecution. And we shall do everything within our powers to ensure that none of them escapes the long arms of the law”, the statement concluded.