Gov Umo Eno
By Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo
THE Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo on Thursday upheld the election of Pastor Umo Eno of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP as the governor of the state.
The three-member panel of justiceschaired by Justice Adekunle Adeleye, dismissed the Petition jointly filed by the All Progressives Congress,(APC)and its candidate, Obong Akan Udofia, challenging the electoral victory of Umo Eno for lack of Merit.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Umo Eno winner of the election of the March 18, 2023 election.
Eno polled a total of 356, 346 votes to defeat Senator Akpan of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) and Obong Akan Udofia of the APC who scored 136, 262 votes and 129, 602 votes respectively.
But dissatisfied with the result declared by INEC, Akan Udofia and his party had approached the Tribunal seeking the disqualification of governor Eno on the grounds that he had presented forged documents to INEC, and allged failure to score the majority Lawful votes in the Governorship election.
The petitioners also alleged that Eno who was joined as the 2nd Respondent in the electoral matter having been convicted by an Abuja Magistrate Court, therefore was not qualified to contest for the said election.
But in its judgement on Thursday, the Tribunal panel held that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations of non-compliance with the electoral Act 2022 in the conduct of the governorship election.
The Justice Adeleye’s panel also held that the Magistrate court in its judgement, nullified its earlier conviction of Pastor Umo Eno and that once a judgement is nullified, it ceases to exist.
The Tribunal further held that regarding the issue of qualifications, that the Supreme Court had already determined that Pastor Eno (2nd Respondent) 1981 and 1983 WAEC certificates he submitted to INEC are genuine.
It accordingly expunged the evidence by the petitioners’ subpoenaed witness, an acclaimed Interpol officer, who came to tender a report on the 2nd respondent’s WAEC results.
The panel unanimously disagreed with the petitioners on the legality of the setting aside of judgement by the same Magistrate, stressing: “It is not the duty of the tribunal to determine if the decision of the magistrate court to upturn its own judgment was justified. That falls under the jurisdiction of the Abuja High Court.”
Also the Tribunal dismissed the grounds of petition filed by Udofia challenging the eligibility of Senator Bassey Akpan of the YPP, who scored 136, 262 votes to come second in the election.
The tribunal insisted that the APC and Udofia
claim that Senator Albert was not qualified to be fielded by YPP having already vied for same office in the PDP was baseless, as it is a party matter to determine who emerges its candidate.
The judgement which lasted for almost 4hours was read by Justice Kadi Usman Sikudu.
Reacting to the judgement, the Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State, and one of the Counsel’s to governor Eno, Essien Udom (SAN) thanked the Court for once again affirming the election of the governor.
“The petition has been dismissed. It was a very, very thorough judgement you could not have expected anything better. All the issues were thoroughly addressed. We are happy”, he asserted.