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Tribunal: Akpabio robbed out of Victory



Senator Ekpenyong defeats Akpabio in tribunal

The Senator representing Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district in Akwa Ibom State, Senator Christopher Ekpenyong, on Wednesday, defeated the outgone Senator who represented the zone, Chief Godswill Akpabio in the National/State House of Assembly elections tribunal sitting in Uyo, the state capital….

There was confusion as supporters of Senator Godswill Akpabio bursted into temporary celebration late Wednesday night at the National Elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Uyo.

This came even as the Akwa Ibom National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal had dismissed the petition by Senator Godswill Akpabio, challenging the election of Senator Chris Ekpenyong to represent Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District .

One of the judges in the three man panel had upheld the petition of Senator Akpabio, and announced the nullification of the victory of Dr Chris Ekpenyong as Senator representing Akwa Ibom North West(Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District.

Contrary to the judgement of the other two judges, Justice S. H Tahir whose ruling was delivered by 11.45 PM, said the petitioners Senator Akpabio and the APC, had no need to present polling unit agents to prove their victory since they were not challenging what transpired at the units, and that the power of cancelling illegal votes was not in the hands of the returning officer, but in the hands of polling unit officers.

He therefore urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to retrieve the certificate of return from Ekpenyong and surrender it to Akpabio as the elected Senator of the district.

But in the majority ruling read by the chairman of the panel, Justice W. O. Akanbi, the tribunal maintained that the petitioners failed to bring any witness from the polling units and thus could not prove substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.

“Every reasonable person should support free, fair and credible election. The Returning Officer cannot be blamed for reporting what he saw to INEC ”

Relying on the case between ANDREW v. INEC, the court ruled that the burden of proof for proving substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act to ground a nullification of the election is on the petitioner and held that the Petitioner’s evidence was too weak in all ramifications to prove non-compliance, not to mention substantial non-compliance, which is the only ground for nullification of the elections.

The court in the end, in a majority Judgement of two justices dismissed the petition and upheld the declaration of Senator Christopher Ekpenyong as the winner of the February 23, 2019 elections.

“The Petition is hereby dismissed because they have not been able to prove noncompliance at all”, the tribunal declared.

Reacting to the victory, Senator Chris Ekpenyong through his Counsel Samuel Ikpo Esq, said “The judgement has buried the Petition that was long dead and dead for eternity “.

But Senator Akpabio’s Counsel Adekunle Oyesanya said he was disappointed that the majority decision did not favour him, and maintained that after studying the judgement with his clients, he will appeal the decision.

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