Niger Delta Affairs Minister Senator Godswill Akpabio and his opponent, Senator Chris Ekpenyong, are warming up for the Akwa Ibom Northwest senatorial rerun.
The Court of Appeal, which ruled at the weekend that Ekpenyong did not win in Essien Udim Council, ordered that a rerun should be held there within 90 days.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which said the ruling had vindicated its position that the poll was marred by violence, has not set a date for the rerun.
Akwa Ibom North West(Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District is made up of 10 local governments. Akpabio, who is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), hails from Essien Udim.
The umpire had declared that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) standard bearer, Ekpenyong, scored 114,973 votes winning in nine local government areas, while Akpabio scored 76,917 votes.
According to INEC, 19,455 voters were accredited during the election in Essien Udim.
The rerun is generating excitement among stakeholders. Analysts, who assessed Akpabio’s chances, said it would be a herculean task for Ekpenyong’s victory to be upturned, based on results from only one local government area.
Akpabio will be going into the rerun with a deficit of 38,056, which he needs to overturn Ekpenyong’s victory.
An analyst said: “Akpabio and Ekpenyong will be struggling to get all, if not most of the 19,455 accredited votes in Essien Udim.
“It will definitely not be possible for Akpabio to garner all the 19,455 votes in Essien Udim and if he does, it won’t really make much difference to him because he needs 38,056 votes to win.”
He added: “It will be a tall dream for him to expect that Ekpenyong will not snatch a substantial number of votes out ot the 19,455 votes in the area.
“The rerun will be impossible for Akpabio to reverse the over 38,056 difference, given the fact of the number of accredited voters, the turn out and other intervening variables”.
Akwa Ibom INEC Public Affairs Officer Don Etukudoh, said the judgment had affirmed the commission’s position that violence and irregularities marred the election in Essien Udim Council.
He said: “The court re-affirmed as valid and preserved the elections as declared by the commission in nine of the 10 LGAs that make up Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District.
“It, however, ordered a rerun of the senatorial election within 90 days in Essien Udim LGA only, where the commission had decried the massive rigging and manipulations that culminated in the dubious award of 61,329 votes to Senator Akpabio in the LGA, intended to upturn the results of the other nine LGAs.
“This was when the accreditation figure from the Smart Card Readers (SCRs), confirmed by ticks on the Voter Register for the entire Essien Udim stood at just 19,455.
“The Commission rejected this travesty and maintained its position despite pressure, blackmail and threats to lives of lNEC officials.
“The Court also ordered fresh elections in the same Essien Udim LGA in respect of the House of Representatives seat while upholding elections in Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara, the other two LGAs that constitute the Federal Constituency”.
Akpabio’s media aide Anietie Ekong, said the former governor and his legal team were still studying the judgment, adding that they will issue a statement on it tomorrow.
However, APC Publicity Secretary, Nkereuwem Nyongekere, said that the ruling showed that “truth was hurriedly murdered and buried by the tribunal in Akwa Ibom.”
He added: “The Court of Appeal sitting at Calabar in Cross River State in its ruling has nullified the election of Dr. Christopher Ekpenyong, who was wrongly declared the winner of the National Assembly election in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District on February 23, 2019.
“The ruling in its entirety is a testament that will open up the eye of the world to the misappropriation of justice meted out to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State by the National Election Tribunal at Uyo in collusion with unprogressive forces in the PDP and INEC in Akwa Ibom State.”