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Akwa Ibom: Tribunal dismisses APC’s petition against Gov Eno

I will never negotiate with hoodlums, says Eno

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo has dismissed a suit brought by Akanimo Udofia of the All Progressives Congress (APC), challenging the election of Umo Eno of the People’s Democratic Party 9PDP) as winner of the March 18,2023 election.

The grounds Udofia sought for the disqualification of Umo Eno was 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 Eno of being convicted by an Abuja Magistrate Court, hence not qualified to be fielded for elections.

But 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-headed panel also unanimously 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.

The tribunal disagreed with the petitioner on the legality of the setting aside of judgement by the same magistrate.

Read also: Akwa Ibom: Tribunal strikes out NNPP/Udoedehe suit for lack of merit

“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,” the tribunal ruled.

On the issue of the qualifications of Umo Eno who was the 2nd respondent, the tribunal maintained that the Supreme Court had already determined that Pastor Eno was the authentic owner of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificates he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

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 petitioners’ subpoenaed witness, an acclaimed Interpol officer, who came to tender a report on the 2nd respondent’s WAEC results.

On the petitioners’ allegation that the PDP made used 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.

Akanimo Udofia’s petition, according to the tribunal, lacked merits as the petitioner was not able to establish one polling unit in which there was noncompliance with the electoral law in the March 18 Governorship elections.

The tribunal also dismissed the ground of the petition by Udofia, challenging the eligibility of 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 Young Progressive Party (YPP) candidate and this made him eligible to contest in the elections.

The tribunal also dismissed the claims by APC that Albert was not qualified to be fielded by YPP having already vied for 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.

Read also: Akwa Ibom: Eno denies rift with predecessor, says monthly allocation not meant for sharing

Commenting on the judgment, counsel to Eno, Essien Udom, flanked by former National Legal Adviser of the PDP, Emmanuel Enoidem, appreciated the judges for painstakingly carrying out the exercise.

“Even the petitioners are happy with the judgment because their lawyer thanked the judge for doing a fine job,” Udom told journalists at the court premises.

In a related development, the tribunal also upheld the election of Eno and dismissed the suit instituted by Bassey Albert Akpan and his party, Young Progressives Party, which challenged the election of the Akwa Ibom State Governor.

With the judgment, the tribunal has dismissed all the cases brought against Umo Eno by all the petitioners following the governorship election held in March this year.