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The National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state has upheld the election of two more federal lawmakers.
The tribunal upheld the victory of Mr Aniekan Umanah representing Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency, and election of Mr Patrick Ifon as the duly elected representative for the Eket/Esit Eket/Ibeno/Onna Federal Constituency.
The Petitioners: The All Progressives Congress (APC) and Mr Emmanuel Ekon had challenged the election of Mr Aniekan Umanah on two grounds to wit: that the election and return of the 1st Respondent, Aniekan Umanah is invalid by reason of substantial non-compliance.
Secondly, that the first respondent, Mr Aniekan Umanah was not duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the elections.
The tribunal held that the evidence of all the ten witnesses of the petitioners were insufficient to prove substantial non-compliance which is the only grounds that could lead the court to decide in favour of the petitioner.
The court held that: “Proving non-compliance would require a unit by unit prove by the petitioner… Consequently, the petitioner’s attempt to use 11 polling unit agents to establish non-compliance in an election that covered over 200 polling units could achieve anything but never a proof for substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Act”.
The petitioners having failed to prove substantial non-compliance, corrupt practices or that the 1st Respondent did not win by majority of lawful votes cast at the elections, the court consequently dismissed the case and ordered cost of N50,000 each to the 1st and 2nd respondents.
In the case of Patrick Ifon, the APC challenged the elections conducted on February 23, 2019 which produced Ifon as winner, saying it was invalid due to corrupt practices in the conduct of the elections.
He party further said that the elections were not held in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, and prayed the court to cancel the elections.
However, the respondents, Mr Patrick Ifon and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenged the jurisdiction of the court on the grounds that the petition was brought to challenge an election that never held.
Their argument was predicated on the fact that the Petitioner brought the said petition against an election to Eket Federal Constituency which in fact is nonexistent under the laws of Nigeria.
Relying on section 285(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the case of Oke v. Mimiko, the tribunal upheld the argument of the 2nd Respondent, Mr Pat Ifon and held in its ruling that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain a petition that was filed to challenge an election into a nonexistent federal constituency.
“Where a party appears in a matter, either by physically attending court or by filing the necessary reply to the petitioner’s processes, it suffices to confer jurisdiction on the court, whether or not a memorandum of appearance was filed….the filing of the processes required for the substantial adjudication of the matter makes useless the requirement for filing a memorandum of appearance,” the tribunal ruled.
The tribunal also stated that the petitioner could not prove the case made by them of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of the Act.
It held that the evidence of PW1 – PW7 were inadmissible, all being unsupported by the pleadings, and thereby dismissed the petition and upheld Mr Patrick Ifon as duly elected.
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