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News:Tribunal Verdict: Inside Account Of Udom Emmanuel’s Victory

Thursday, September 19, 2019 did not go down as an ordinary day in Uyo, the capital city of Akwa Ibom State.
The atmosphere in the State on that sunny day was caught up with anxiety as all indigenes and political observers awaited the judgment of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in the matter filed by Obong Nsima Ekere of the All Progressives Congress (APC) challenging the victory of Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the March 9, 2019 gubernatorial elections.
The three-member tribunal headed by Justice A. M Yakubu ended the months of anxiety as it delivered its verdict – encapsulated in an over 590 paged judgement.
The tribunal noted that out of the total units complained about by the petitioner to be 799 out of the over 2,000 units in 25 local government area, the petitioners failed to call witnesses in eight out of the 21 local government areas where they claimed to have won.
It went on to dissect the shortcomings in the case as presented by the petitioner.
The tribunal said that out of their witnesses, nine claimed to be polling unit agents, 11 ward agents, five Local government area agents but did not produce their identity tags and PVCs before the court and therefore weakened their petition.
It also noted that with the limited witnesses, especially that the evidence of the petitioner’s witnesses based on communication and information from others was held as hearsay evidence the petition was therefore accordingly expunged.
The tribunal dismissed all documentary evidence “dumped on the court” as regards the petitioners’ complaints from the local government areas which included Abak, Eastern Obolo, Ika, Eket, Mbo Mkpat Enin among others.
Citing the Supreme Court case of Nweke v INEC, the tribunal held that documentary evidence, however daring, cannot be thrown on the court without oral evidence linking the documents to the issues in the case (petition).
The tribunal accordingly adopted only two issues formulated by the Petitioners for the determination of the suit. The issues adopted were: Whether in the light of issues joined, the March 9 Elections were not held in non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010.
The second was whether the non-compliance as established in evidence was not substantial to affect the general outcome of the election and thus justify a cancellation of the entire elections.
The tribunal proceeded to appraise the evidence of all parties at the court and in their considered ruling held, inter alia; “That the petitioners having abandoned their prayers where they claimed ab initio that the first petitioner, Obong Nsima Ekere was the winner of the elections, all the evidence given in effort to substantiate the said ground was expunged from the considerations of the court in the judgement;
“That the petitioners having abandoned their prayers hinged on the ground that there were corrupt practices in the conduct of the elections, all the evidence given in effort to substantiate the said ground was also expunged from the considerations of the court in the judgement;
“The petitioners failed to follow the laid down rules in front loading and listing all documents they sought to rely on in proof of their petition. Consequently the efforts and attempt by the petitioners to sandwich-in documents not pleaded nor listed by the Petitioners is condemnable.”
The tribunal equally noted that the documents 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;
It noted that the onus was on the petitioner who alleges irregularities and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 to prove same, adding that the Petitioner failed in the discharge of such burden.
The court maintained that the Petitioners could neither prove non-compliance nor substantial non-compliance to lead to a cancellation of the elections.
For the Petitioner to have complained of non-compliance and irregularities in elections in 799 polling units and only ended up calling 43 was grossly inadequate to satisfy the burden of proving non-compliance and irregularities with the provisions of the Electoral Act which requires a unit by unit prove, by law.
It ruled that although the petitioners made several allegations of a criminal nature in their petition, the law is that in such cases, the allegation must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The Justice Yakubu led tribunal ruled that the petitioners in the said case could not give the alleged proof hence the doubts in their allegations stand dangling.
It accordingly affirmed the victory of Mr Udom Emmanuel as Governor of Akwa Ibom State, thus collapsing the suit filed by Obong Ekere, the governorship candidate of the APC on May 29, 2019, against the result of the March 9 elections that saw the re-election of Mr. Emmanuel as the governor of Akwa Ibom State.
Meanwhile, there have been reactions over the tribunal’s verdict within and outside the State.
The Akwa Ibom State Council of Chiefs in a congratulatory message issued on Friday, September 20, 2019, described the judgement as “A Verdict of Truth and Respect for the Supreme will of Akwa Ibom People.”
“We, the Paramount Rulers, nay all segments of traditional stools under the auspices of Akwa Ibom State Council of Chiefs heartily congratulate His Excellency, Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel over his victory at the Election Petition Tribunal in the landmark judgement delivered on Friday, September 19, 2019.
“As fathers and conscience of the people, we urge that this judgement delivered by the Election Petition Tribunal be taken as a verdict of truth which tallies wholly with the supreme will of Akwa Ibom people expressly demonstrated at the polls held on Saturday, March 09, 2019 in Akwa Ibom State.”
It advised “the petitioners to accept the judgement in good faith for the sake of unity, peace and development of our beloved State, even as we mark our 32nd year of Statehood.”
A member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Nsikak Ekong in congratulating Governor Udom Emmanuel over the judgment, described the victory as well deserved and an affirmation of the governor’s resounding victory at the March 9, 2019 polls.
Ekong said the victory is a clear testament that “only God rules over the affairs of men and that He alone gives power to whomever He wishes.”
The lawmaker also commended the PDP and Akwa Ibom people for their steadfastness, solidarity and faith in Governor Emmanuel, noting that their unwavering support has contributed significantly to the governor’s deserved victory.
Rt. Hon. Ekong who maintained that Governor Emmanuel’s victory at the tribunal is a confirmation once again that Akwa Ibom is a PDP state, added that the victory will afford the governor the much needed opportunity to focus on his industrialization drive in the State without distractions.
The member representing Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr. Unyime Idem, and the Leader, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Sir Udo Kierian Akpan have congratulated Governor Emmanuel on his victory at the governorship election petitions tribunal.
Mr. idem, who commended the judgment of the three-man panel led by , Justice Yakubu, described it as a victory for democracy and the affirmation of the will of the people of Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal constituency in particular and the entire Akwa Ibom in general.
In their reaction, the Elders and Stakeholders of Akwa Ibom South (Eket) Senatorial District commended Governor Emmanuel over the judicial confirmation of his victory.
He has equally urged the loser, Obong Ekere to embrace the open arms of the governor and join hands in developing the State.
Reacting to the ruling, the leader of the district, Chief Nduese Essien said the victory was an affirmation of the unanimous votes freely given to the governor last March.
The Eket Senatorial District leader advised Ekere against going further on appeal, saying it would not bring any good to the state.

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