There was celebration in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital on Wednesday following the ruling of the governorship tribunal which ordered fresh polls in 18 local government areas in Akwa Ibom state.
In its ruling, the tribunal’s chairman, Justice Sadiq Umar ordered re-run of election in 18 out of the 31 local government areas of the State.
Candidate for the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the election Umana Umana, had approached the tribunal challenging conduct of the election and declaration of Udom Emmanuel as governor of the state. The tribunal ordered INEC to conduct fresh polls in 18 LGA’s of Nsit Ubium, Nsit Ibom, Ibiono, Uyo, Etinan, Udung Uko, Oruk Anam, Etim Ekpo, Onna, Uruan, Ikono, Ini, Ibesikpo, Nsit Atai, Eket, Ibeno and Ikot Abasi .
Before delivering judgement, the tribunal first ruled on five motions on notice by the respondents.
The first ruling was a 2nd respondent’s motion on notice dated 13th July, 2015, urging the tribunal to dismiss the petition as all witness statement on oath were invalid except that of the 1st Petitioner. He asked that all witness statements deposed to by petitioners witnesses used initials or letters which violates the equal opportunity rule as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. The petitioners on their part had prayed the Court to dismiss the motion which it described as an abuse of Court process and submitted that the law allowed the petitioners witnesses to use initials or letters as a means to protect the witnesses in view of what it called Nigeria’s highly volatile political climate where election is deem to be a do and die affair. The tribunal ruled that the application lacked merit as there was no basis for the submission of the respondent and dismissed the application.
Also on the respondent’s application for a motion on notice to bring an application outside the pre hearing session, praying the tribunal to dismiss the petition because a condition precedence prior to the filing of the petition was not met in that the petitioners witness statement were not deposed before a competent authority and that the witness statement were not in consonance with the oath Act which vitiated the petition. The tribunal ruled that the tribunal Secretary is by law conferred with judicial authority to so act. The motion was therefore dismissed.
The tribunal also ruled on three consolidated application asking for dismissal of the petition for lack of jurisdiction. In the motion, the respondents prayed the tribunal to dismiss the petition for what they called failure of the petitioners to bring a formal application before the tribunal for commencement of the pre hearing session. They alleged that the petitioner did not pay the stipulated filing fee and that the first petitioner was not a valid candidate for the election.
In its rulling, the tribunal said the 1st and 2nd respondent cannot complain or fault the pre hearing session since it took part in it as the petitioners requested via a letter to the tribunal Secretary for the issuance of Form TF007, which the law allows to be done via a letter or an ex parte motion which are purely administrative. The tribunal ruled that the petitioners letter of June 13 complied with the law which necessitated the respondents to file Form TF008 indicating their readiness to participate in the pre hearing session. The tribunal said the tribunal Secretary acted in law in issuing the pre hearing forms. The tribunal declared that the respondents cannot now complain about the pre hearing session having participated in it and dismissed the motion.
On the mandatory 21 days notice for the nomination of a candidate for election, the tribunal ruled that the APC had in a letter dated 19 th September, 2014 notified INEC of it’s intention to conduct its governorship primary on November 15th,2014 and a letter of a rescheduled primary billed to hold on December 14,2014 was sent to INEC which complied with the mandatory 21 days notice in line with Section 81 of the Electoral Act which proved that Mr. Umana Umana was a valid candidate for the April 11,2015 election and dismissed the motion.
On the controversy over the non resignation of Engr Ben Ukpong , running mate to the APC governorship candidate 30 days to election as required by law and his continued receipt of salary and emoluments after his purported resignation, the tribunal ruled that a letter of resignation dated December 2,2014 by the APC running mate to the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) and an official confirmation of his letter of resignation by the FCDA also dated December 2,2014 as well as evidence of payment of one month salary in lieu to FCDA proved that Mr Umana’s running mate did retire more than three months to the election and therefore dismissed the motion for lack of merit. Meanwhile, the governorship candidate, Umana Umana has dedicated the victory to God and his supporters.