The Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar over the Governorship election petition tribunal judgements have reaffirmed the election of Governor Udom Emmanuel as duly elected and winner of the March 9, 2019 election in Akwa Ibom State.
In a unanimous judgement on Wednesday in Calabar, the five-man Appeals Panel preceded over by Justice Adzira Gana Mshehia all concurred with the lead judgement read by Justice Tunde Awotoye.
The judgement which awarded a cost of N500, 000 against the appellant in favour of the only the first respondents, Governor Udom Emmanuel read in parts, “the appellants complained of irregularities in 756 polling units, they called a total of 43 witnesses. 17 of whom were polling agents. So in over 700 units complained about, the appellant did not lead any evidence of non-compliance alleged.”
“It’s at the polling units that votes are cast. The primary evidence of a result of an election is the results from the polling units. The evidence adduced was not substantial enough to affect the result of the election. Any proven irregularity and non-compliance has not been shown to be broad-based, and substantial enough across the polling units in Akwa Ibom State, in order to result in the nullification of the entire election.”
“It seems to be a fallacy, a delusion for the appellant to believe that the quality of the evidence, he adduced established non-compliance and substantially affected the result of the election.”
“The election had already been won and lost”. One of the judges asserted in his contributions. Adding that “when the return of an election is being questioned, on the grounds of non-compliance with the provisions of the electoral Act, it does not suffice to prove non- compliance without more, the petition we must be able to go further to prove that the non-compliance was substantial and affected the result of the election. The authorities in this regard are legion. The petitioner must not only assert but must be able to satisfy the court that the non-compliance affected the result to justify nullification.”
“The non-compliance has to include the polling units, wards and local government complained about. And where documentary evidence is relied upon, it has to be demonstrated in court through the testimony of witnesses”.
“The law stipulates that an election shall not be invalidated by the reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the electoral act if the election was conducted substantially in accordance with provisions of the Act. And that the non- compliance did not affect the result of the election, substantially – See section 139, sub section one of the Electoral Act”.
All the legal counsels representing both the appellants and the respondents in the case accepted the judgement and no indication was given if the APC governorship candidate will challenge the judgement to the Supreme Court.
Giving his reaction to the judgment, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko Esq, said the judgment “is exactly what was expected in the sense that by the time we went through the trial processes and procedures in the trial tribunals, it was very evident that the petitioners now appellant did not make any conscious efforts to prove their case. The case they brought to the court was full of contradictions and the evidence lacked legal principles.”
Counsel to Governor Udom Emmanuel of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Assam Assam SAN told journalists that “the Court of Appeal dismissed the case and declared His Excellency Emmanuel Udom as the elected governor of Akwa Ibom state.
“The petitioners brought a petition based on allegations and brought documents that does not relate to the Court. The petitioner himself came to the court and told them that there was no election in Akwa Ibom state but brought votes registers and there was nobody in the court to testify the fact that those registers were not used in the election.”
“He could not tell the court how the results were when there was no election. No evidence adduced at all. When you look at all the documents tendered none of them was certified as provided for in the electoral Act.
The people were waiting for the judgement. It is their judgement. They voted for Gov. Udom in their numbers and they are very happy over this judgement”.