By Chioma Onuegbu & Harris Emmanuel
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and All Progressives Congress, APC, senatorial candidate for Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial district seat in the 2019 general election, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has said he will appeal the tribunal judgement, which dismissed his petition against Senator Christopher Ekpenyong of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the election.
The National Assembly Election Petitions tribunal, Wednesday night, ruled in favour of Ekpenyong of the PDP and dismissed the petition by Akpabio.
Akpabio’s counsel, Adekunle Oyesanya, who expressed disappointment that the majority decision did not favour him, maintained that after studying the judgement with his clients, he would appeal the decision.
The judgement, which was delivered by Chairman of the tribunal, Justice W. Akanbi, with the concurrence of Justice Ebetu, dismissed the petition and upheld the election of Ekpenyong.
In a dissenting judgement, Justice S. Tahir, whose ruling was delivered by 11.45.p.m on Wednesday, said Akpabio and APC had no need to present polling unit agents to prove their victory since they were not challenging what transpired at the units, and that the power of cancelling illegal votes was not in the hands of the returning officer, but in the hands of polling unit officers.
The minority judgement upheld the petition of Akpabio, and announced the nullification of the victory of Ekpenyong as the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West, Ikot Ekpene senatorial district.
He urged INEC to retrieve the certificate of return from Ekpenyong and surrender it to Akpabio as the elected Senator of the district.
But in the majority ruling read by the chairman of the panel, Justice W. Akanbi, the tribunal maintained that the petitioners failed to bring any witness from the polling units and thus could not prove substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
However, the PDP youths led by the chairman of the State Youth Caucus and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Youth Matters, Aniefiok Udofia led over 800 youths on a victory March from Wellington Bassey Way through Dominic Utuk Avenue, to the residence of Chris Ekpenyong, where the celebration lasted until the early hours of yesterday.