The two major political parties in Akwa Ibom elections, Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), and All Progressive Congress(APC) has vowed to challenge the judgement of the Election Petition Tribunal that cancels elections in 18 local governments and ordered re-run elections at the appellate courts. There are 31 local governments in the state.
The APC candidate, Umana Okon Umana had challenged the declaration of Governor Emmanuel Udom as the winner of the 11 April election, alleging widespread irregularities and malpractices.
However, the tribunal sitting in Abuja, today gave its verdict on the controversial election, ruling that voters in the 18 local councils were disenfranchised. The three-member tribunal presided over by Justice Sadiq Umar ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct re-run election in the affected 18 LGAs.
Some of the affected LGAs in the judgment included Eket, Uyo, Onna, Nsit-Ibom, Nsit-Ubium, Ibimo, Ibeksibo, Nsit-Atai, Etinam and Oron. Justice Sadiq, who read the judgment, said the tribunal upheld the testimonies of the petitioners’ witnesses that election did not hold in the affected LGAs.
Sadiq said the testimony of one of the witnesses, Mr Don Etiebet, a former member of the PDP Board of Trustees, was convincing and reliable to the effect that election did not hold where he voted.
The judge held that the allegations of irregularities and non-availability of election materials in the affected LGAs were also proved by the petitioners.
Reacting to the decision, counsel to the petitioners, Solomon Umoh (SAN), said the judgment was a victory for democracy.
On his part, counsel to the governor, Paul Usoro (SAN), said they would study the content of the judgment and decide on the next line of action.
In its reaction, the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Wednesday said it would appeal against the judgment. The Chairman of the party in the state, Dr Amadu Atai, announced this to newsmen in Uyo. Atai said the party was expecting outright cancellation of the governorship election since it nullified the elections in 18 out of the 31 local government areas.
“The tribunal has cancelled the governorship elections in 18 local government areas and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct elections in the affected areas. But we are going to file an appeal because we expected cancellation in more local government areas where discrepancies were pervasive”, he said.
The Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Mr Paul Ekpo, however, said that the judgement was confusing.
Ekpo said the only good thing about the judgment was that the State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, remained in office.
He said the party would review the judgment, adding, “the judgment is very confusing except that my governor, who had won the election overwhelmingly in the state, still remains the governor.