Election Tribunal: Senator Akpabio loses Petition to Senator Christopher Ekpenyong
In what appeared to be the climax of all the Judgements given by the National and State House of Assembly Election Tribunal, sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital, today, September 11, 2019, The court upheld the victory of Senator Christopher Ekpenyong as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission in the February 23 elections as the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District at the Senate of the National Assembly.
Senator Akpabio, the 1st Petitoner had challenged the elections on the ground that;
a) that Senator Christopher Ekpenyong was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the February 23, 2019 elections for the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District;
b) That the election that produced Senator Christopher Ekpeyong as winner was invalid owing to non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in the conduct of the elections.
The court dismissed the petition of Senator Akpabio wherein the senator had claimed a declaration, inter alia:
1) That the return of the 1st Respondent was not duly returned or elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the February elections at the February 23,2019 elections;
2) that the result of the election held on the February 23, 2019 elections be nullified same being held, not in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and a re-run ordered thereto;
3) an order of court declaring the 1st Petitioner, Senator Godswill Akpabio as the winner of the elections having polled the highest number of valid, lawful votes at the elections.
The court dismissed all the preliminary objections filed by all the Respondents in the petition and resolved to settle the case on the merits, to wit:
a) Did the Petitioner prove by admissible evidence that the election was invalid?
b) Did the 1st Petitioner establish that he, Senator Godswill Akpabio won the elections by polling the highest number of votes cast at the elections against Senator Christopher Ekpenyong who was declared winner by the INEC?
The court ruling on the burden of proof held that burden of proof for proving substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act to ground a nullification of the election is on the petitioner and relying on the case of ANDREW v. INEC. The court thereupon held that the Petitioner’s evidence was too weak in all ramifications to prove non-compliance, not to mention substantial non-compliance, which is the only ground for nullification of the elections.
The court further stated that the petition failed to bring any witness from the polling units and thus could not prove substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
The court in the end, by a majority Judgement of two justices dismissed the petition and upheld as valid the declaration of Senator Christopher Ekpenyong as the winner of the February 23, 2019 elections.
There was however a dissenting Judgement by 1 out of the 3 judges of the Tribunal.