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See Why Tribunal Dismissed APC’s Petition Against Gov Eno



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The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Thursday, trashed a petition,  brought before it by the Akwa Ibom State Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr Akanimo Udofia, challenging the election of Pastor Umo Eno of the Peoples Democratic Party as winner of the March 18, 2023 elections.

Udofia had accused Eno,  the winner of the Election of presenting forged documents to the electoral umpire, INEC and sought his disqualification of Pastor Umo Eno, adding that he also did not score the highest number of valid votes in the said elections.

Udofia had also accused the 2nd respondent of being convicted by an Abuja Magistrate Court, hence not qualified to be fielded for elections.

But in favour of Gov Umo Eno the 2nd Respondent, the Tribunal in its unanimous decision ruled that the allegations of substantial noncompliance with the electoral law in the conduct of the elections were not sufficiently proven by the petitioners in their case.

The Justice Adekunle Adeleye headed panel also unanimously ruled that the magistrate court in its judgment, nullified its earlier conviction of Pastor Umo Eno and that once a judgement is nullified, it ceases to exist.

The tribunal disagreed with the petitioner on the legality of the setting aside of judgement by the same magistrate.

“It is not the duty of the tribunal to determine if the decision of the magistrate court to upturn its own judgment was justified. That falls under the jurisdiction of the Abuja High Court.”

On the issue of the qualifications of the 2nd Respondent, the Tribunal maintained that the Supreme Court had already determined that Pastor Eno was the authentic owner of the WAEC certificates he submitted to INEC.

The lead judgement read by Justice Kadi Usman Sikudu, also held that the petitioners have alleged that Pastor Eno was not the owner of the certificate he submitted to the 1st Respondent, INEC, did not produce any other person, as the authentic owner of the said 1981 WAEC certificate.

The tribunal also expunged the evidence tendered by the petitioners’ subpoenaed witness, an acclaimed Interpol officer, who came to tender a report on the 2nd respondent’s WAEC results.

On the petitioners’ allegation that the PDP made use of public office holders such as one Uwem Ekanem as collation agent in Ikot Abasi local government area, the tribunal ruled that Uwem Ekanem’s membership of the board of Ibom Power Company, cannot be classified as political office and that a party agent’s membership of a company’s board was not sufficient reasons for a candidate to be disqualified.

Akanimo Udofia’s petition, according to the Tribunal, was baseless and lacked merits as the petitioner was not able to establish one polling unit in which there was non-compliance with the electoral law in the March 18 Governorship elections.

The tribunal also dismissed the ground of the petition by Mr Udofia, challenging the eligibility of Senator Bassey Albert, who came second in the election.

The tribunal insisted that at the time of the elections, there was a subsisting appeal by the convicted YPP candidate and this made him eligible to contest in the elections.

The tribunal also dismissed the claims by APC that Senator Albert was not qualified to be fielded by YPP having already vied for same office in the PDP.

It ruled that the petitioner not being a member of the YPP, had no basis to challenge who that party fielded and how he emerged as their candidate.

The Tribunal had previously thrown out petitions by Governorship candidates of the NNPP, Senator John James Akpan Udoedehe, and ANC, Ezekiel Nyaetok, as lacking in merit.

Commenting on the judgement, counsel to the 2nd Respondent, Essien Udom, SAN flanked by former National Legal Adviser of the PDP, Barr Emmanuel Enoidem, appreciated the judges for painstakingly carrying out the exercise.

“Even the petitioners are happy with the judgement because their lawyer rose up to thank the judge for doing a fine job”, Udom told journalists at the court premises.

The tribunal is expected to reconvene on Friday for judgement in the petition by Bassey Albert of the YPP, challenging the election of Governor Umo Eno.

Albert’s case, incidentally is also based on allegations of certificate forgery and substantial noncompliance with the electoral law in the conduct of the 2023 Governorship elections.

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