Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have in separate appeals asked the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division to set aside the judgement of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which ordered fresh elections in 18 out of the 31 local government areas in the state.
The appellants are asking the appellate court to set aside part of the tribunal’s decision which nullified elections in Etim Ekpo, Uyo, Ikono, Ibesikpo, Onna, Ikot Abasi, Oruk Anam, Uruan, Ibeno, Ibiono Ibom, Nsit Ubium, Ini, Oron, Nsit Atai, Etinan, Udung Uko and Eket Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State.
They also asked the court to uphold the results of the governorship election conducted on April 11, 2015 in the local government areas listed above. The election petition tribunal had on October 21 nullified elections in 18 of the 31 local governments in the state.
The tribunal held that elections in the affected local government areas were marred by violence and other infractions.
The petitioner, Umana Okon Umana, and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had approached the tribunal to challenge the election of Governor Udom on grounds of irregularities.
In its judgement, the tribunal ordered INEC to conduct fresh elections within 90 days.
The tribunal further dismissed INEC statement mandating the use of card readers for the election, saying it violated section 49 of the Electoral Act.
It also dismissed the forensic report tendered by the petitioner on the ground that the persons that generated the report are not forensic professionals.
The tribunal held that the card reader report is not a conclusive report to ascertain the actual number of accredited voters.
In the appeal, while the PDP through its counsel, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) raised 20 grounds of appeal upon which it relied on in asking the court to uphold the elections in the 18 local governments, the governor through his counsel, Paul Usoro (SAN) raised only two grounds.
They both faulted the judgement of the tribunal on the grounds that the petitioners did not plead any fact that voters in the council areas were disenfranchised.
They also said that the petitioners did not call evidence to support the claims that voters in the affected councils were disenfranchised.
The governor in his appeal submitted that the petitioners did not in their petition at all plead the facts of voters’ disenfranchisement in the 18 councils.
“The number and details of the voters that were purportedly disenfranchised and the specific facts and circumstances of their said disenfranchisement were not pleaded in the petition.
“There was no relief in the petitioners’ petition that supported the orders of the tribunal nullifying the election results in the 18 councils and ordering re-run elections thereat on the grounds that voters in the said councils were allegedly disenfranchised during the election,” he submitted.
The PDP, however, submitted that the evidence relied upon by the tribunal in nullifying the results of the election in some of the affected local government areas were either inadmissible or hearsay.
The party argued that for the tribunal to hold that voters were disenfranchised, the petitioners ought to have called at least a registered voter from each polling units in all the affected local government areas.
The party also faulted the tribunal’s decision in each of the 18 local government areas and stated that the decision nullifying the election was perverse.
PDP also accused the tribunal of disrespecting the principle of judicial precedent which implied that a lower court must abide by the decision of a higher court when the facts are similar. It cited various instances in the judgement where the tribunal refused to apply judgements of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.