The Appeal Court sitting in Calabar, Cross River State on Wednesday reaffirmed the victory of Governor Udom Emmanuel as the duly re-elected governor of Akwa Ibom State, setting aside the appeal brought before it by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Nsima Ekere.
The appellate court in a unanimous decision upheld the judgment of the Governorship Elections Petitions tribunal in Uyo which had affirmed that Emmanuel was validly elected on March 9, 2019, elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, and awarded a cost of N500,000 for the 1st respondent, at the expense of the appellants.
Ekere and his party APC had presented 24 grounds for a joint appeal, holding that the tribunal erred in law and that the judgment of the tribunal ran in contrast to the weight of evidence and sought that the Court of Appeal should set aside the tribunal judgment delivered on September 19, 2019.
Mr. Ekere had requested in the appeal, an order to nullify the governorship election for noncompliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 and an order for the 3rd Respondent, (INEC) to conduct fresh elections into the office of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State.
The Appeal Court agreed with the respondents that the appellants could not substantiate their allegations that the Governor Emmanuel’s re-election was marred by non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, guidelines and manual for the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
The Appeal Court unequivocally ruled that the lower court was right in rejecting Exhibits PT1 -PT2331 (Voter’s Register), Exhibits PTA1 – PTA2275 (Forms EC8As), Exhibit PTB1-PTB275(Forms EC8Bs), Exhibits PTC1-PTC28(Forms EC8Cs), Exhibits PTD1(Form EC8D), Exhibit PTE1(Form EC8E), Exhibits PTF1-PTF3(INEC Manual and Guidelines for Conduct of 2019 Elections and Directory of Polling Units in Akwa Ibom State), Exhibit PTF4 (Summary of PVC collected and uncollected), Exhibit PTG1 – PTG19(EC40G).
It said the documents were merely dumped at the tribunal as they were not tendered in line with the law and the lower tribunal had no business investigating the content of such documents.
Furthering on the arguments raised by the 1st Respondent (Emmanuel) against Grounds 1,2,3,4,5,7,13,16,19 and 23 of the appeal, the 5-man panel also upheld that the tribunal was right to reject the Exhibits PTH81, PTH81A and PTH81B (Certificate of Compliance, GSM Cell Phone and Compact Disc Plate containing video clips), all tendered by PW44.
The Appeal Court among other reasons ruled that the burden to prove all allegations of criminality, corrupt practices and non-compliance rested on the appellants. It also ruled that the appellant lacked cogent and credible evidence.
On Witnesses paraded by the petitioners to give evidence, the tribunal held that “witnesses of the Petitioner gave hearsay evidence which was information claimed to be obtained by other persons, maintaining that such evidence has no probative value not being that of an eye witness.”
Reacting to the judgment, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel again dedicated his victory at the Appeal Court to God and the good people of Akwa Ibom State.
In a statement released by his Chief Press Secretary, Ekerete Udoh, Emmanuel thanked the people of Akwa Ibom State for their support, prayers, and faith in his capacity and passion to turn the state into an industrial hub and the attendant job and wealth creation opportunities.
“Today, the Appeal Court sitting in Calabar overwhelmingly reaffirmed the victory you gave me at the March 9, 2019, Gubernatorial elections.
“I am hugely indebted to you my dear people for your support and prayers and of course, our ONLY GOD who made this all possible. Together, we will continue to re-write the Akwa Ibom story and show the world where the passion is right, great things can happen.
“Again, I extend my hands of fellowship to my brothers and sisters on the other side of the political divide to join hands with me to build an economically viable State where our people’s standard of living will be improved significantly.”
In its reaction, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Akwa Ibom State chapter in a release by its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ini Ememobong, said the appeal court judgment aligned with reality by confirming the sanctity of the ballot.
“In the well-considered judgment, the noble Lords of the penultimate court, held the Appeal was lacking in merit, agreeing with the tribunal that the APC did not lead credible evidence to prove their case and that they had dumped documents in the panel without linking them, as required by law.
“By this judgment, the judiciary has again shown that justice is directed by law and not federal might, partisan colouration or other extra-legal dispositions. To this, we are deeply grateful to the court and wholeheartedly welcome the judgment.
“To the opposition APC, we renew our call for partnership in the execution of the Akwa Ibom Project through the vehicle of the completion agenda of Governor Udom Emmanuel.”