The National and state House of Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Uyo, today, September 12, 2019, has dismissed the case filed by the APC and its Candidate, Emmanuel Akpan against the election of Mr. Nsikak Ekong as member representing Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency.
In a majority judgement read by the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice W. O. Akanbi, he agreed that INEC was justified in cancellation of the illegal wards where there was widespread thuggery and election violence and thus held that by the majority of valid votes cast at units where there was peaceful conduct of elections, Rt Hon Nsikak Ekong who stood elections on the platform of the PDP won the elections as declared by INEC.
On the issue of cancelled votes which was contended by the petitioners, the court referred to the guidelines of the Third Respondent (INEC) which provided that any unit or Ward where elections where marred by thuggery and violence would result in outright cancellation.
“There was no wrongful cancellation of result by the third Respondent as the cancellation was done on votes not gotten in compliance with the electoral guidelines.”
“On whether or not the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act 2011 as amended.
“We cannot but believe the testimony of the Respondents witnesses R1 – R11, who spoke based on what they saw, while the petitioner’s witnesses merely spoke on what they were told.”
The tribunal consequently held that the petitioners having failed to prove their petition, the petition could therefore not stand. The petition was therefore struck out.
Justice Sheriff Hafizu was however absent from the court. There are speculations that he must have disagreed with the majority judgement of the court and decided to stage a walk out on his colleagues instead of read same. Recall that on Wednesday, September 11, 2019, in the case filed by Senator Akpabio against the election of Senator Christopher Ekpenyong, the same judge had taken a dissenting stand against the majority decision of the court.
On an interview after the judgement, counsel to the Respondent speaking on the judgement affirmed that where a court is constituted by more than one judge, the majority judgement is to be considered the judgment of the court and that a dissenting judgement is merely an academic exercise. He further added on further questioning that the absence of one of the judges was immaterial and stated that the facts were distinguishable from the case in Osun state.