Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos State, has dismissed the suit by Eseme Eyiboh of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and declared Hon. Okpolupm Etteh of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the authentic winner and representative of the Eket/ONNA/Esit Eket/Ibeno Federal Constituency.
The Court’s ruling, which was delivered on Thursday by Hon. Justice Jummai Hannatu C. Sankey (Presiding Judge), Hon. Justice Muslim Sule Hassan, and Hon. Justice Gabriel Omoniyi Kolawole, the 3-man Panel of Justices, regarded Eyiboh’s suit as “lack in merit.”
In the ruling, the Justices unanimously relied upon the thorough judgment of the Justice Kudirat Jose-led Tribunal, which had affirmed Hon. Etteh winner of the House of Representatives election of February 25, 2023 for Eket/ONNA/Esit Eket/Ibeno Federal Constituency, as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), having scored 33,001 votes against Eyiboh (16,909 votes).
It further held that the Court has and will continue to shy away from speculations, and rather seek to do justice to a case on the merit.
Given that issues for determination were resolved in favor of Hon. Etteh, the Court held that the appeal failed. It accordingly dismissed it and affirmed the judgment of the Tribunal.
As a penalty, the Court asked Eyiboh, who relied on mere speculations to allege that Hon. Etteh’s certificates were forged, to pay the sum of N300,000 to each respondent.
Recall that Eyiboh, in his petitions, had alleged that the candidate of the PDP was not qualified to stand for election due to certificate forgery and, therefore, sought the Tribunal to nullify Etteh’s eligibility and declare him (Eyiboh) winner of the said election.
Also recall that Counsel to the first respondent, Barrister Ekpenyong Ntekim, during the Panel’s sitting of Wednesday, May 17, 2023, told the Tribunal that it was rather surprising that the petitioner could not do due diligence to the case, citing his failure to produce witnesses from any of the institutions he claimed issued fake certificates to Hon. Etteh.
At that same sitting, Barrister Ntekim had also responded, through a prayer, to the argument by the Counsel to the petitioner, Barrister Jumbo Udom, that a witness from the School of Management and Technology, now Temple Gate Polytechnic, Aba, had testified before the tribunal that Hon. Etteh obtained his OND certificate from the school.
Barrister Ntekim had further told the Tribunal that contrary to the petitioner’s argument and submission, all the witnesses who were brought from Temple Gate Polytechnic, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, and Examination Certification Division of the Ministry of Education, Akwa Ibom State, testified with documents as evidence that Hon. Etteh, indeed, obtained his certificates from these institutions.