Today, Wednesday, September 11, 2019, the National and State House of Assembly Election Tribunal sitting in Uyo the Akwa Ibom State capital upheld the election of Rt. Hon. Patrick Ifon as the duly elected candidate for the Eket/Esit Eket/Ibeno/Onna Federal Constituency and consequently dismissed the petition of the All Progressives Congress and her candidate.
The APC had challenged the election on the grounds that the elections conducted on the 23rd February, 2019 which produced Rt. Hon. Pat Ifon as winner was invalid due to corrupt practices in the conduct of the elections and further that the elections were no held in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The Petitioner consequently prayed the court to cancel the elections and order a re-run or in the alternative declare the 2nd Respondent, candidate of the APC as the winner of the elections being the candidate with the 2nd highest number of vote at the February 23 elections.
In the case, the Respondents, Rt. Hon. Ifon, PDP challenged the jurisdiction of the court on the grounds that the petition was brought to challenge an election that never held. This argument was predicated on the fact that the Petitioner brought the said petition against an election to EKET FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY, which in fact is nonexistent under the laws of Nigeria.
The Petitioner had argued that they only used EKET FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY as a short form for Eket/Esit Eket/Ibeno/Onna Federal Constituency, which is the legally recognized Federal Constituency.
The court relying on section 285(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the case of Oke v. Mimiko and thus upheld the argument of the 2nd Respondent, Rt. Hon. Pat Ifon and held in her ruling that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain a petition that was filed to challenge an election into a nonexistent federal Constituency.
The further argument by the Petitioner that the Respondent failed to file a memorandum of appearance was resolved in favour of the 2nd Respondent, Rt. Hon. Pat. Ifon and the PDP. The Petitioner had argued that the Respondents should not be accommodated in the case on the grounds that they filed their pleadings out of time and without filing a memorandum of appearance. The court held that the issue of memorandum of appearance is liberalized in law and stated the position of the law thus:
“Where a party appears in a matter, either by physically attending court or by filing the necessary reply to the petitioner’s processes, it suffices to confer jurisdiction on the court, whether or not a memorandum of appearance was filed….the filing of the processes required for the substantial adjudication of the matter makes useless the requirement for filing a memorandum of appearance.”
The 1st Respondent also argued that the petition being wrongly headed as being filed at the National Assembly Election Tribunal and not the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal as provided for by section 285(1) of the Constitution. He contended that the petition was therefore incompetent and that the Tribunal lacked jurisdiction to entertain the petition. The court resolved this argument in favour of the 1st Respondent.
The court also stated that the petitioner could not prove the case made by them of Corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of the Act. The court further held that the evidence of PW1 – PW7 were inadmissible, all being unsupported by the pleadings.
The court thereupon, in consideration of the foregoing resolutions dismissed the petition and upheld Rt. Hon. Patrick Ifon as duly elected.