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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tribunal Orders Elections in 18 A’Ibom LGs, Emmanuel, Umanah to Appeal

•Disquiet in state over ruling
The Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja has nullified the results of the April 11 governorship election in 18 local government areas of the state.
The tribunal however upheld the credibility of the election results in the remaining 13 local government areas.
Consequently, the tribunal ordered a re-run of election in the affected local government areas to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) within 90 days .

Reacting to the judgment, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, said Governor Udom Emmanuel would challenge the judgment on appeal.
Similarly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) said it would appeal against the judgment. The Chairman of the party in the state, Amadu Atai, announced this to journalists in Uyo.
Atai said the party was expecting outright cancellation of the governorship election since the tribunal nullified the results of the poll in 18 out of the 31 local government areas, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
“The tribunal has cancelled the governorship election in 18 local government areas and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct elections in the affected areas.
“But we are going to file an appeal because we expected cancellation in more local government areas where discrepancies were pervasive,” he said.
The Chairman on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Paul Ekpo, however said that the judgment was confusing.
Ekpo said the only good thing about the judgment was that Emmanuel would remain in office.
He said the party would review the judgment, adding: “The judgment is very confusing except that my governor, who had won the election overwhelmingly in the state, still remains the governor."
The tribunal, headed by Justice Sadiq Umar nullified the election while delivering judgment in a petition filed by the APC and its governorship candidate, Mr. Umana Umana.
In the judgment that lasted over seven hours, the tribunal agreed with the petitioner that there was disenfranchisement as a result of violence, snatching of election materials, irregularities and harassment of electoral officials in the 18 local councils.
Some of the affected councils in the judgment included Eket, Uyo, Onna, Nsit-Ibom, Nsit-Ubium, Ibino, Ibeksipo, Nsit-Atai, Etinam and Oron.
However, the tribunal was silent on the prayer seeking for the invalidation of the election of the governor.
Earlier in the judgment, the tribunal dismissed the forensic report tendered by the petitioners on the grounds that those who generated the report admitted in their witness statements that they were not forensic experts.
The tribunal also dismissed a press statement issued by INEC, which directed that card reader machines be used mandatorily for the elections.
Justice Umar said: “The card reader report is not a conclusive report to ascertain the actual number of accredited voters. That press release concerning the card reader report is null and void, as it offended the provisions of Section 49 of the Electoral Act which deals with the process of accreditation in an election.
“The APC witnesses who were called as expert witnesses, while being cross-examined before the tribunal said that they were not experts. The tribunal therefore questioned how they came about their findings.”
To forestall the outbreak of violence after the ruling, armed policemen took over the streets of Uyo, the state capital.
Despite beefed security, there was sporadic shooting at 4 pm along the road to the Government House when policemen on patrol encountered some hoodlums.
Some residents in the state who spoke to THISDAY said the disquiet observed in the state showed that the tribunal’s ruling was unclear, as a clear pronouncement to nullify the governorship election or uphold it was expected.
Many said the cancellation of the poll in 18 out of 31 local councils meant that the election was not free and fair in some areas.
Those, who volunteered to speak on the condition of anonymity, maintained that with the ruling by the tribunal, the APC governorship candidate had been handed the upper hand to effect a change of leadership in the state.
The ruling also foreclosed the victory party planned by the ruling PDP in the state.
[ Tobi Soniyi, Senator Iroegbu in Abuja and Okon Bassey in Uyo  - ThisDay]

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