…ruling has vindicated INEC
Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio and his opponent, Senator Chris Ekpenyong are back in the ring to battle for Akwa Ibom Northwest Senatorial District seat in the National Assembly.
The appellate court on Saturday ruled that the incumbent Senator, Ekpenyong did not win in Essien Udim, Akpabio’s council area, and therefore ordered a rerun in that local government area in 90 days.
Akwa Ibom northwest(Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial district is made up of 10 local government areas.
It could be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission had declared that Ekpenyong scored 114,973 votes winning in all nine local government areas, while Akpabio scored only 76,917 votes.
INEC record showed only 19,455 were accredited in the last elections in Essien Udim.
Political analysts who spoke with our correspondent yesterday have continued to assess Akpabio’s chances. They said it would be a herculean task Ekpenyong’s victory to be upturned with results from only one local government area.
They were quick to observe that Akpabio will be going into the rerun with a deficit of 38,056 which he needs to overturn Ekpenyong’s victory.
One of them said, “Akpabio and Ekpenyong will be struggling to get all if not most of the 19,455 accredited votes in Essien Udim.
“It would definitely not be possible for Akpabio to garner all the 19,455 votes in Essien Udim and even if he does it won’t really make much difference to him because he needs 38,056 votes to win.
In fact, it will be a tall dream for him to expect that Ekpenyong will not snatch a substantial number of votes out ot the 19,455 votes in the area.
“He reasoned that since Ekpenyong is going into the contest with votes advantage against Akpabio and it would be impossible for Akpabio to counter the over 38,056 difference given the fact of the number of accredited voters, the turnout and intervening variables”.
The INEC in Akwa Ibom in a statement signed by its public affairs officer, Don Etukudoh said the Court of Appeal in Calabar has affirmed the position of the commission that there were widespread violence and irregularities during elections in Essien Udim LGA.
“The Court reaffirmed as valid and preserved the elections as declared by the Commission in 9 out of the 10 LGAs that makeup Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District.
“It, however, ordered a rerun of the Senatorial election within 90 days in Essien Udim LGA ONLY, where the Commission had decried the massive rigging and manipulations that culminated in the dubious award of 61,329 votes to Senator Akpabio alone in the LGA, intended to upturn the results of the other 9 LGAs. This was when the accreditation figure from the Smart Card Readers (SCRs), confirmed by ticks on the Voter Register for the entire Essien Udim stood at just 19,455.
“The Commission rejected this travesty and maintained its position despite pressure, blackmail and threats to lives of lNEC officials.
“The Court also ordered fresh elections in the same Essien Udim LGA in respect of the House of Representatives seat while upholding elections in Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara, the other two LGAs that constitute the Federal Constituency”.
Though Akpabio is yet to issue any official reaction to the court ruling, his special assistant on media, Anietie Ekong said Akpabio and his legal team were still studying the judgment and will come out with an officlal position on the matter on Tuesday.
The All Progressives Congress(APC) in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, Nkereuwem Nyongekere, however, said that the Appeal Court ruling on Saturday has exposed that truth was ‘hurriedly murdered and buried by the Tribunal in Akwa Ibom’.
“The Court of Appeal sitting at Calabar in Cross River State in its ruling has nullified the election of Dr. Christopher Ekpenyong who was wrongly declared the winner of the National Assembly election in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District on February 23, 2019.
“The ruling in its entirety is a testament that will open up the eye of the world to the misappropriation of justice meted out to All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State by the National Election Tribunal at Uyo in collusion with unprogressive forces in PDP and INEC in Akwa Ibom State”.