The National and State House of Assembly Election Tribunal, sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital, today, September 11, 2019 upheld the victory of Hon. Aniekan Umanah as the winner of the February 23 elections as member, representing Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency.
The Petitoners, The All Progressives Congress and Hon Emmanuel Ekon had challenged the election of Hon. Aniekan Umanah on two grounds to wit:
1) That the election and return of the 1st Respondent, Hon. Aniekan Umanah is invalid by reason of substantial non-compliance
2) That the 1st Respondent, Hon. Aniekan Umanah was not duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the elections.
The Petitioners consequent on the foregoing grounds prayed the court to cancel the elections same being held, not in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, nullify the certificate issued to the 1st Respondent as the winner of the February 23 elections or in the alternative, declare the 1st Petitioner, Mr Emmanuel Ekon, as the winner of the said elections.
The court first gave her ruling on a motion filed by the petitioner seeking to foreclose the Respondents from defending the case on grounds that the Respondents made a typographical slip on the process. The court held that since the court had already determined a motion on that subject by dismissing the petitioner’s application in July 9, 2019, the court could not as now sought by the Petitioner sit on appeal over its decision. The court therefore dismissed the motion of the petitioner and held that the Respondents had a right to defend the case and that they had done so within the limits of the law.
On the merit of the case, the court, after a review of the evidence given by the witnesses and all documents before the court held that the Petitioners did not prove non-compliance with the Electoral Act and further that the non-compliance, assuming the tribunal were to even consider that such was established in any little way, was not sufficient non-compliance such as could substantially affect the results of the elections.
The court held that the evidence of all the eleven witnesses of the Petitioners were insufficient to prove substantial non-compliance which is the only grounds that could lead the court to decide in favour of the Petitioner. The court held that:
“Proving non-compliance would require a unit by unit prove by the petitioner… consequently, the Petitioner’s attempt to use 11 polling unit agents to establish non-compliance in an election that covered over 200 polling units could achieve anything but never a proof for substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Act”.
The Petitioners having failed to prove substantial non-compliance, corrupt practices or that the 1st Respondent did not win by majority of lawful votes cast at the elections, the court consequently dismissed the case and ordered cost of 50,000 naira each to the 1st and 2nd Respondents.