On Thursday the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, dismissed a petition brought by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the State, Akanimo Udofia, challenging the election of Pastor Umo Eno of the Peoples Democratic Party as winner of the March 18,2023 elections.
Udofia sought the disqualification of Pastor Eno’s election on the grounds that he presented forged documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and also did not score the highest number of valid votes in the March 18, 2023 Governorship elections.
Udofia 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 Governor 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, was not sufficiently proven by the petitioners in their case.
The Justice Adekunle Adeleye led panel also 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.
“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 having 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 petitioner’s subpoenaed witness, an acclaimed Interpol officer, who came to tender a report on the 2nd respondent’s WAEC results.
On the petitioner’s 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.
The Tribunal ruled that Akanimo Udofia’s petition lacked merit as he 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 the 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 Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, had earlier, thrown out the petitions by Governorship candidates of the NNPP, Senator John James Akpan Udoedehe, and that of the ANC candidate, Ezekiel Nyaetok, as lacking in merit.