The National and State House of Assembly Election Tribunal, sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital,on Wednesday September 11, 2019 ruled in favour of Senator Christopher Ekpenyong who was challenged by Senator Godswill Akpabio
Senator Ekpenyong was declared winner of the February 23 elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission as the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District.
And Senator Godswill Akpabio of the All Progressive Congress (APC) the 1st Petitioner took to court to challenged the victory of Ekpenyong of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on the following grounds;
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(a) that Senator Christopher Ekpenyong was not duly elected by a 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 the 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 former Governor had claimed a declaration, inter alia:
(1) That the return of the 1st Respondent was not duly returned or elected by a 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 a winner by the INEC?
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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 tribunal ultimately rejected the petition in a majority judgment of two judges and upheld Senator Christopher Ekpenyong’s statement as the winner of the February 23, 2019 elections.
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