By SONI DANIEL
Abuja — The lingering legal tussle over the 2011 gubernatorial election in Akwa Ibom State, in which Chief Godswill Akpabio was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, may be resolved by the Appeal Court, today.
Former Special Adviser on Projects to Governor Victor Attah, Engr. Frank Okon, who contested the election against Akpabio, wants the appellate court to disqualify Akpabio and declare him as the duly elected governor of the oil-rich state.
Okon, whose case had earlier been struck out by a Federal High Court, is contesting the verdict which, he said, amounted to a miscarriage of justice by the learned trial judge, who dismissed the case on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction to entertain it.
In dismissing the case, Justice Abdu Kafarati, had held that it did not consider the appellant as a candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the re-run primary election of the party held in Akwa Ibom State on January 15, 2011.
But Okon, the judge insisted, erred in law by refusing to follow the true position of the law as set out by the Supreme Court as to when a person becomes a candidate of a political party.
According to the particulars of the appeal, made available to journalists in Abuja, the appellant maintains that he was the candidate of the PDP in the election, having been screened and cleared to run in the election.
Okon is praying the court to declare him the duly elected governor of Akwa Ibom State since he was screened and cleared to take part in the poll.
He also argued that Akpabio’s name was signed and returned to INEC by the former National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwezeli Nwodo, on January 16, 2012, whereas the court had removed him from office on January 12, 2012.
When the case came up in February, the governor’s defence team had asked for time to file its brief and it was granted 30 days to do so.
Although the governor has won all the legal battles arrayed against him by those who contested the poll, the last battle is still of concern to his supporters and associates, who viewed the matter as an attempt to draw him back.