Ayade Defeats Owan-Enoh at Elections Tribunal

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Ben Ayade

Bassey Inyang in Calabar

Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has triumphed over the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator John Owan-Enoh at the Election Petition Tribunal.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Ayade winner of the March 9 governorship election.

But, Owan-Enoh approached the tribunal seeking to nullify the outcome of the election on the grounds that he was wrongfully excluded from participating in the election.

Delivering judgement yesterday on the petition with number EPT/CAL/Gov/1/2019, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Josiah Majebi, said the first and second grounds of the petition were irreconcilable and mutually exclusive

Justice Majebi said in the first place the issue of his exclusion was a pre-election matter, and the petitioner had failed to seek redress within legally specified 14 days allowed for complaints.

The tribunal strongly disagreed with the petitioner that he was wrongfully excluded by the second respondent, INEC.

Majebi added that much of the grievances expressed in the petitioner were pre-election matters, which his tribunal has no jurisdiction to entertain.

He said pre-election matters include nomination, withdrawal and exclusion from contesting election.

“Any disputes within a given political party which stands election before actual election such as nomination or withdrawal or exclusion are pre-election issues. Our mandates don’t cover them. Therefore, such are ineffective grounds. We therefore strike them and such others out for incompetence,” Justice Majebi said.

The tribunal also held that there was multiplicity of litigations by interested parties of the APC regarding the governorship election, which complicated the petition.

The chairman said they have carefully considered the applications, written addresses and counter-responses by the respondents, and have overruled many views of the petitioner as lacking in merit and gross abuse of court processes.

He added that the petition was academic, hypothetical, and frivolous, and that the petitioner alleged that he was excluded from the election, yet he scored valid votes of 131,161 which made his petition contradictory.

“Having painstakingly and profoundly looked over the submissions and considered several legal authorities, we hereby reject the entire evidences given by the petitioner, and dismiss the petition as lacking in merit. We resolve the matter in favour of the first respondent. Consequently, we hereby declare that Prof. Benedict Ayade was duly elected on 9 March, 2019 as the Governor of Cross River State,” the judge said.

Reacting to his victory at the tribunal, Ayade dedicated his victory at the tribunal to God and the people of Cross River State.

Ayade described the tribunal judgement as a mere reaffirmation of his resounding victory at the March 9 governorship poll.

The governor, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Christian Ita, shortly after the tribunal ruling, said he was not surprised at the verdict since his victory was never in doubt.

“As I did when I won the governorship election of March 9, by dedicating my victory to God, the great people of Cross River State and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) family, let me once again rededicate today’s tribunal verdict which explicitly reinforced the will of the people to them.

“I had no doubt that I would emerge victorious at the tribunal. I have never lost faith or confidence in our judicial system. I was very confident that the tribunal would be diligent and upright in determining the petitions brought before it and it did just that today and I am happy. Cross Riverians are happy and I am sure that even the petitioners will be happy that the tribunal has acquitted itself.”

Insisting that the affirmation of his election by the tribunal would further embolden him to deliver on his campaign promises, Ayade said: “Today’s judgement is no doubt a call for a redoubling of effort, energy, kinetics and gusto to consolidate on what my administration started four years ago, which is the aggressive industrialisation of the state. Let me also quickly add that I will treat this victory at the tribunal with all the seriousness and urgency that comes with it. But more importantly, let me call on my brothers on the other side, like I did when I was declared winner by INEC, to come and join me so that collectively, we can build the Cross River that we can all be proud of.”