Tribunal upholds election of PDP NASS members in Akwa Ibom
The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal presided over by Justice Jennifer Ijohor on Thursday upheld the elections of Senator Bassey Albert for Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District, Hon. Unyime Idem for Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency and Nse Ekpenyong of Oron/Udung Uko/Urueffong Oruko/Mbo/Okobo federal constituency.
The three-member tribunal sitting at the State Sanitation Court Complex in Uyo ruled in favour of the Respondents who are all members of the People Democratic Party(PDP), citing the inability of Petitioners to prove allegations of criminality and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, as contained in their petitions.
In the Akwa Ibom North Senatorial District petition, the petitioners, Bassey Etim, candidate and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), alleged that Bassey Albert was not elected by majority of lawful votes; not qualified to contest the National Assembly elections as his documents were falsified; and that his emergence was by reason of corrupt practices; and non-compliance with the Electoral Act by the Independent National Electoral Commission
The petitioners, who were represented at the tribunal by Reuben Egwaba Esq, relied on Section 140(3) to urge that the tribunal nullifies the election of Senator Bassey Albert and declare Mr Bassey Etim as the winner.
In the alternative, Etim called on the tribunal to order a fresh election and exclude the PDP and Senator Bassey Albert from contesting.
However, Counsel to the PDP, O. B. Akpan Esq and that of the 1st Respondent Mr.Solomon Umoh SAN represented by M. D. Gwaison, submitted that the petitioners, who made wild criminal allegations of falsification of documents and noncompliance with electoral act, did not tender any other document to prove their claim.
Barr Akpan also said that a Witness subpoenaed by the Petitioner, S. O. Ibrahim, Deputy Director, Legal Department of INEC had testified that Senator Albert satisfied INEC’s screening to contest the elections, and that no reports have been received by INEC from WAEC or any of the institutions denying any document submitted by Senator Albert.
On votes acquired by Senator Albert, the respondents held that “the Petitioners submitted polling unit results as Exhibits P1-P317 and P320-P821 but merely dumped them at this Tribunal without linking any to their Petition during trial.
“All witnesses of the Petitioners including the Petitioner only relied on hearsay in their Witness Statements. They confirmed on cross examination that they only received reports from agents,” maintaining that they were unable to pinpoint units of which INEC did not comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“On lawful votes, the Petitioners carefully avoided and abandoned their pleadings without giving any evidence, written or oral to prove how Senator Albert was not returned elected”.
Similarly, the election of Hon. Unyime Idem was also upheld on ground that evidences of Petitioners and their witnesses were based on hearsay from polling unit agents, without substantial evidences.
In proof of their petition, the petitioners called only three (3) witnesses, PW1 – Aniebiet Sunday Idung, PW2 – Friday Thomas Uwa, PW3 – Emmanuel Ukoette
However the Tribunal upheld the argument of the respondents that, “all grave criminal allegations must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Witnesses can only give evidences at polling units where they voted”.
The tribunal agreed with the 1st and 2nd respondents that the election into House of Representatives for the Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State was conducted by the 3rd Respondent in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and 2019 General Elections Guidelines and Regulations in the discharge of its constitutional function.
The Tribunal also ordered the Petitioner, Emmanuel Ukoette to pay Hon. Idem the sum of one hundred thousand naira (N100, 000).
Similarly, the petition brought before the tribunal by Mr Victor Antai of the APC challenging the victory of Chief Nse Ekpenyong of the PDP for Oron Federal Constituency was dismissed for lacking in merit.
As at the time of this report, ruling was being awaited for the Uyo Federal Constituency seat where Mr Ekerete Ekpenyong of the APC is challenging the victory of Mr Michael Enyong of the PDP in the February 23, 2019 national assembly election