The Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Uyo, on Thursday upheld the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom state, Mr Udom Emmanuel, at the March 9, 2019 general election.
The petitioners, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate in the election, Mr Nsima Ekere, had filed a petition challenging the result of the elections that returned Emmanuel as the Governor of the state for a second term.
The three-man panel unanimously upheld the election of Governor Emmanuel and dismissed the petition of Mr Nsima Ekere and the APC in a 590 paged judgement delivered today.
The tribunal said the petitioners failed to call witnesses in eight local government areas out of the 21 they claimed they had won, and discountenanced every documentary evidences regarding the petitioners’ complaints from Abak, Eastern Obolo, Ika, Eket, Mbo, and Mkpat Enin among others.
Citing the Supreme Court case of Nweke v INEC, the tribunal said that documentary evidence however daring cannot be thrown on the tribunal without oral evidence linking the documents to the issues in the petition.
The tribunal adopted the two issues presented by the petitioners for the determination of the suit which were: Whether in the light of issues joined, the March 9 Elections were not held in non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010; Whether the non-compliance as established in evidence are not substantial to affect the general outcome of the election and thus justify a cancellation of the entire elections.
After appraising all the evidences of all parties to the petition, the tribunal ruled as follows:
1) That the Petitioners having abandoned their prayers where they claimed ab initio that the first Petitioner, Mr Nsima Ekere was the winner of the elections, all the evidence given in effort to substantiate the said ground is expunged from the considerations of the court in the judgement;
2) That the Petitioners having abandoned their prayers hinged on the ground that there were corrupt practices in the conduct of the elections, all the evidence given in effort to substantiate the said ground was also expunged from the considerations of the court in the judgement;
3) The petitioners failed to follow the laid down rules in frontloading and listing all documents they sought to rely on in proof of their Petition “Consequently the efforts and attempt by the petitioners to sandwich-in documents not pleaded nor listed by the petitioners is condemnable.”
The court equally noted that the documents were not linked to any parts of the petition and that most of them were mere photocopies of public documents and not the required Certified True Copies of the documents;
4) That the onus is on the Petitioner who alleges irregularities and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 to prove same. That the Petitioner failed woefully in the discharge of such burden;
5) That the Petitioners could neither prove non-compliance nor substantial non-compliance to lead to a cancellation of the elections. For the Petitioner to have complained of non-compliance and irregularities in elections in 799 polling units and only end up calling 43 was grossly inadequate to satisfy the burden of proving non-compliance and irregularities with the provisions of the Electoral Act which requires a unit by unit prove, by law.
6) The Petitioners made several allegations of a criminal nature in their petition. The law is that in such cases, the allegation must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, the Petitioners in this case could not prove anything, the doubts in their allegations still dangling; we resolve those cases in favour of the respondents.
Reacting to the tribunal judgement, Governor Udom Emmanuel dedicated the victory to God and the people of the state.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Ekerete Udoh today in Uyo, Gov. Emmanuel said “To you my dear and great Akwa Ibomites, thank you for the love, faith, belief and trust you have shown me, your prayers and hope in my capacity to take this state to a place and point that would stand out as a source of reference in what an inspired and people-centric governance can and should be.
“To my fellow brothers and sisters on the opposite end of the political divide, I am extending my hand of fellowship again to join me in building a state that would be the pride of us all – an economically viable, infrastructural-developed, morally sound and forward looking state where the biding cords of our unity and brotherhood will be strengthened.”