Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Thursday, affirmed the victory of Udom Emmanuel at the March 9, general elections.
Mr. Emmanuel was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Nsima Ekere and the party had filed a petition challenging the declaration of Mr. Emmanuel as the winner of the election.
Mr. Ekere and the APC had argued that the election was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2015 as ammended.
They also insisted that Mr. Emmanuel was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
Mr. Ekere and the APC, therefore, sought the following reliefs;
1) That it may be determined and declared that the 1st Respondent, Mr Udom Emmanuel did not secure and could not have secured the majority of lawful votes cast at the elections;
2) That it may be determined and declared that the election was void and invalid due to non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2015 as ammended.
3) That it may be determined and declared that the election being invalid by reason of non-compliance was null and void;
4) That it be determined and ordered a fresh election for the office of the governor in Akwa Ibom State, except in Etim Ekpo and Essien Udim where elections were held in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act, 2015.
But in a 590-page judgement, the tribunal noted that the petitoners failed to call witnesses in eight local government areas out of 21 they claimed to have won.
Consequently, the tribunal discountenanced every documentary evidence, it said, was “dumped on the court.”
The tribunal adopted the two issues brought by the petitioners for the determination of the suit.
The issues as adopted were:
i) Whether in the light of issues raised, the March 9 Elections were held in compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010;
ii) Whether the non-compliance as established in evidence is not substantial to affect the general outcome of the election and thus justify a cancellation of the entire election.
In dealing with the issues, the tribunal appraised the evidence of all parties before it and ruled as follows:
1) That the petitioners abandoned their prayers where they claimed ab initio that the first petitoner, Mr. Ekere was the winner of the elections, noting that all the evidence given in effort to substantiate the said ground is expunged from the considerations of the court.
2) That the petitioners having abandoned their prayers hinged on the ground that there were corrupt practices in the conduct of the election, therefore, all the evidence given to substantiate the said ground were also expunged from the considerations of the court.
3) The petitioners failed to follow the laid down rules in frontloading and listing all documents they sought to rely on in proof of their petition.
“Consequently the efforts and attempt by the petitoners to sandwich in documents not pleaded nor listed by the petitoners is condemnable,” the tribunal held.
It equally noted that the documents tendered were not linked to any parts of the petition and that most of them were mere photocopies of public documents and not the required certified true copies of the documents.
While holding that the onus is on the petitioner who alleged irregularities and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act to prove same, the tribunal said the petitioners failed woefully in the discharge of such burden.
It also held that the petitoners could neither prove non-compliance nor substantial non-compliance to lead to a cancellation of the elections.
For crying non-compliance and irregularities in 799 polling units and calling only 43 witnesses, the tribunal held it was grossly inadequate to satisfy the burden of prove as contained in the Electoral Act.
It also held that the petitoners made several allegations of a criminal nature in their petition without proving them beyond reasonable doubt.
The tribunal said the law is that in such cases, the allegation must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“Unfortunately, the petitoners in this case could not prove anything, the doubts in their allegations still dangling and so we resolve those cases in favour of the respondents,” the tribunal ruled.