Governor Umo Eno has urged the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos to dismiss the appeal brought before it by Bassey Albert Akpan of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) and uphold the decision of the lower court, which declared him the winner of the governorship election held on March 18, 2023.
In Appeal number CA//C/EP/GOV/AKW/24/2023, filed by the governorship candidate of the
YPP, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, and his party, against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Governor Umo Eno, and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, held that the Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal in Uyo was right in upholding his victory in the 2023 governorship election after Bassey Albert failed to establish his claims of forgery and electoral malpractice.
When the appeal came up at the Appeal Court, Lagos Division, the Governor, through his lead counsel, Paul Usoro, SAN, faulted the arguments by the appellants that the judgement of the Supreme Court in the matter of certificate forgery against the 2nd respondent by Akan Okon was different from the certificate forgery case brought before the elections tribunal.
Usoro averred that “the appellants’ submissions amount to mere sophistry and are entirely erroneous and misconceived,” adding “that a judgement in rem is a judgement of a court of competent jurisdiction determining the status of a person or things distinct from the particular interest of a party to the litigation.
“My lord, when the court gave the judgement, it clearly decided that the said documents were not forged but belonged to the second respondent. It implies that the judgement is applicable to PDP, INEC, the court, or any establishment for that matter.”
Paul Usoro argued further that it was legally imperative that there should be an end to litigation, and as such, the appellants had no reason to keep belabouring the court over a matter that had been sufficiently resolved at the highest court of the land.
The appellants, jointly represented by Tunde Falola, held that they were dissatisfied by the ruling and judgement of the tribunal upholding the preliminary objections of the respondents and dismissing the petition, hence the appeal.
The appellants argued that they had presented 18 witnesses (PW 1–PW 18) before the tribunal and had sufficiently shown that the 2nd Respondent was not qualified to contest the election at the time of the election because he presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission and that he was not elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
Falola argued that the 2nd Respondent did not present any proof that the West African Examinations certificates of June 1981 bearing the name Bassey Umo Eno, which he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, truly belonged to him, as his name ought to have been written as Umo Bassey Eno.
Counsel to INEC, Kolapo Kolade, SAN, said the petitioners never produced a true owner of the certificate, which they claimed did not truly belong to Pastor Umo Eno, and that they never produced any document to buttress their claims of forgery.
“My lord, for any case of forgery to be established, the petitioners have to produce the original document and place it side by side with the alleged forged document. This was never done by the appellants at the lower court,” the INEC Counsel said.
On his part, Counsel to the PDP, Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, among other things, argued that even the 1st Appellant, Bassey Albert, presented before the lower court three documents that bore the arrangement of his name in three different ways: Akpan Albert, Bassey Albert Akpan, and Albert Bassey Akpan, yet still claimed ownership of the three documents.
“My lord, their own subpoenaed witness, a senior staff of the University of Uyo came to the court and attested that he was the academic officer who admitted the 2nd Respondent and that he authenticated his documents himself,” he said.
Oyetibo also recounted how all the witnesses brought by the Appellants at the lower court repeated the same line of arguments in their witness statements, forcing the lower court to trash them as lacking in substance and originality.
Earlier, Tunde Falola had raised an objection opposing the acceptability of the respondents’ briefs of argument, alleging that they exceeded the 25 pages stipulated by the practice direction of the Appeal Court.
The counsel to INEC, Kolade, counsel to Governor Umo Eno, Paul Usoro, and Counsel to PDP, Tayo Oyetibo, however told the court that the briefs they submitted were within the 25 pages stipulated and that the lists of counsel, lists of authorities and addresses for service which are not part of the briefs of argument were not to be included as part of the briefs of argument.
Meanwhile, the governorship candidate of the Accord Party, Emem Coffie has approached the Appeal Court, seeking that the judgement of the lower trial tribunal be upturned in his favour.
The Governorship candidate and his party who was represented by their counsel, Chidi Nwachukwu argued that his client deserved to be declared the Governor as other candidates in the election, were not qualified to contest the election.
Coffie maintained that the respondents did not present any witness, and as such their petition ought to have been upheld.
However, Counsel to Governor Umo Eno, Paul Usoro,SAN, counsel to INEC, Kolapo Kolade, SAN and Mofesomo Oyetibo faulted the claims by the appellants that 800 polling units recorded infractions, saying no effort was made by the petitioners to identify the 800 units, neither was there any attempt to bring witnesses from any of the said polling units.
They also told the court that the only witness the appellants brought, was the Governorship candidate, Emem Coffie who admitted that he was only in his polling unit and after voting on the said date, went to his house.
“Every evidence they gave, amounted to hearsay and that is why the lower court dismissed the case,” Mofesomo Oyetibo, Counsel to the PDP told the Court.
The court also heard the appeal filed by Akpan Jeremiah of the Action Alliance against the 15th September judgment of the Governorship Election Tribunal.
The Appellants had appealed against what they tagged as unlawful exclusion by INEC, but the respondents in their separate briefs urged the court to discountenance the appeal by AA, as it constitutes pre-election matter bothering on internal party disputes, which the party itself failed to resolve before the elections.
All matters were subsequently adjourned to a later date for judgement by the Appeal Court.
The Tribunal had dismissed Bassey Albert’s case on September 29, upholding the objections to the case by the respondents and also delivering judgment to affirm the Governor’s eligibility to contest to March 18 polls, and legitimacy as the validly elected Governor with the majority of lawful votes.
The other two appellants, Emem Coffie and Jeremiah Akpan, had earlier lost their cases at the tribunal on September 15.