***Urges APC to send his replacement to INEC
By Henry Umoru – Abuja
Ahead of the rerun election in Essien Udim Local Government Area, North West Senatorial District in Akwa Ibom State, former Minority Leader of the Senate and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has written to withdraw from the election.
Akpabio in a letter addressed to the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole and dated 2nd of December, 2019, he explained that as a Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, he was already saddled with a major assignment on behalf of the people of his State, the South-South Zone and Nigeria as a country.
The Minister who noted that he cannot abandon a critical assignment given to him by President Muhammadu Buhari in pursuit of a rerun election, however urged the party to write the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in line with Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010, and submit a replacement to run in his place.
It would be recalled that in November, a Court of Appeal, ruled that a rerun election should be held in some parts of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. Akpabio had challenged the declaration of Senator Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the February 23rd election.
Also recall that Senator Godswill Akpabio ran on the platform of the APC while Senator Chris Ekpenyong contested on the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Ekpenyong was returned as the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, a decision Akpabio kicked against leading to the court of appeal ruling ordering repeat poll in Essien Udim, one of the 10 LGAs of the zone to determine the winner.
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Currently, Ekpenyong has 114,973 votes from the remaining nine LGAs while Akpabio has 76,917 votes. There are 95,987 voters with permanent voters cards, PVCs, in Essien Udim LGA, where Akpabio hails from.
In the letter, Akpabio has urged the National Chairman of APC to prevail on the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, to redeploy the State Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini if free and fair elections must be held.
The Minister said: “I wish to recall that I was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District Election held on the 23rd day of February 2019.
“Upon the declaration of Christopher Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the purported winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I challenged same at the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
“The Tribunal In a split decision by a majority of two to one (Honourable Justice W. O. Akanbi and Honourable Justice 0. D. Etubu) dismissed our Petition, while in a dissenting judgment delivered by Honourable Justice Hahz S. Tahlr, the petition was adjudged proven and all the reliefs sought were granted.
“Being dissatisfied with the decision of the majority judgment and upon the erudite points of law and conclusion contained in the minority judgment, we appealed to the Court of Appeal, Calabar Judicial Division which in a unanimous decision delivered on the 9th day of November 2019, allowed our appeal and set aside the Judgment of the Lower Tribunal.”
“I have taken into consideration the critical national assignment bestowed on me by Mr President which will be of immense importance to Nigerians and in particular the indigenes of the Niger Delta region and have resolved to remain as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to further discharge my contributions and services to our great fatherland.
“It is on the premise of the foregoing and particularly in line with the provisions of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) that I want to formally and voluntarily withdraw my candidature as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the forthcoming Court ordered Re-run Election for the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District.
“It will be inappropriate in the circumstance and pursuant to Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) for the party to immediately communicate this withdrawal to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and forward to her the name of another candidate of the party to replace me at the Court ordered Rerun Election for the Akwa lbom North-West Senatorial District.
“I want to seize this opportunity to thank our formidable party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), its leadership at the state and national levels for availing me the party platform and the immeasurable support I received throughout the period of the election and beyond.
“Mr. Chairman, may I advise that the National Working Committee of our party should reiterate our earlier plea to the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (lNEC) to redeploy Mr. Mike Igini (the Resident Electoral Commissioner) from Akwa Ibom State if a free and transparent re-run exercise is to be guaranteed.”