A’Court Affirms Eno’s Election as Akwa Ibom Governor

Wale Igbintade

The State and National Assembly Appeal Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday dismissed the petition filed by Action Alliance (AA) and Accord Party (AP) against Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State.

The three-member panel led by Justice Tani Hassan, said that the findings of the tribunal were valid and unassailable.

“I resolve the issue against the appellant and uphold the judgement of the tribunal.

“I dismiss the petition as lacking in merit,” Hassan held. The Action Alliance and its Governorship candidate, Mr. Akpan Udolt, had contended that the party’s name was not captured on the ballot paper.

They therefore urged the court to nullify the election.

However, Eno and his party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), prayed the court to discountenance the submission of AA.

Former President, Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), counsel for PDP and the governor, argued among other things that the appellants were not vested with the locus standi ‘to present or initiate the petition.

He based his argument pursuant to the provisions of Section 133(1) of the Electoral Act 2022.

According to him, the aforementioned section unambiguously stipulates that “an election petition may be presented by one or more of the following persons (a) a candidate in an election; or (b) a political party which participated in the election.”  He argued that Section 133(1) of the Electoral Act was clear that the appellant did not have locus standi to initiate the appeal. Usoro urged the court to dismiss the appeal.

Earlier, the appeal had reserved judgement in the case filed by All Progressives Congress (APC) against the same governor of Akwa Ibom State.

Counsel to APC, Mr. Hassan Liman, had contended that Governor Eno, was convicted by an Upper Area Court in Abuja.

He argued that it is a constitutional disqualification for a sitting governor to be convicted by a court.

Liman, said though the respondent (Governor Eno and PDP) had argued that the sentence was set aside by the same court, they should not have participated in the March 18, election.

He also urged the court to disqualify the candidate of Young Peoples Party who came second in the election, for presenting forged certificate to INEC.

“I submit having found that the first respondent (Governor Eno) and second respondent(YPP’s candidate) having been disqualified constitutionally, their votes be nullified.

“The decision of the tribunal be set aside and the second runner up (APC) be declared as the duly elected governor of Akwa Ibom ibom State.

In his response, counsel to PDP, submitted that all the witnesses brought by the petitioner unanimously said that the sentence in issue was set aside by the same court that pronounced it.

He also said that the tribunal had held that it lacked jurisdiction to set aside judgement of a court.

He urged the Appeal Court to dismiss the appeal as lacking in merit.

Other parties in the case aligned with the submission of Usoro.

The three-member panel, however, reserved judgement and said that the date would be communicated to the parties.

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