The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, convening in Uyo, has rejected the petition submitted by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Akanimo Udofia.
He had contested the election of Pastor Umo Eno from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the March 18, 2023, elections.
Udofia’s petition aimed to disqualify Pastor Umo Eno on the grounds of presenting forged documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and not securing the highest number of valid votes in the March 18, 2023, Governorship elections. Additionally, the APC candidate accused the 2nd respondent, Umo Eno, of having a prior conviction by an Abuja Magistrate Court, making him ineligible for election.
However, in their unanimous decision, delivered on Thursday by Justice Adekunle Adeleye, the tribunal ruled that the petitioner had not sufficiently proven the allegations of substantial noncompliance with electoral law in the conduct of the elections. The tribunal also addressed the nullification of Umo Eno’s conviction by the magistrate court, stating that “once a judgment is nullified, it ceases to exist.” The tribunal contended that the legality of setting aside the judgment lay within the jurisdiction of the Abuja High Court and was not under its purview.
Regarding the qualifications of the 2nd respondent, the tribunal held that the Supreme Court had previously affirmed the authenticity of Umo Eno’s WAEC certificates submitted to INEC.
As for the petitioner’s allegation that the PDP used public office holders, such as Uwem Ekanem, as a collation agent in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, the tribunal ruled that Uwem Ekanem’s membership on the board of Ibom Power Company did not constitute a political office. They further clarified that a party agent’s position on a company’s board was insufficient grounds for disqualifying a candidate.
The tribunal found Akanimo Udofia’s petition lacking in merit, as he failed to establish noncompliance with electoral law in a single polling unit during the March 18 Governorship elections.
Additionally, the tribunal dismissed the grounds of Udofia’s petition challenging the eligibility of Senator Bassey Albert, who came second in the election. They ruled that, at the time of the elections, there was a pending appeal by the convicted YPP candidate, making him eligible to contest.
The tribunal also rejected APC’s claims that Senator Albert was not qualified to be fielded by the YPP because he had previously vied for the same office in the PDP. They emphasized that since the petitioner was not a YPP member, he had no basis to challenge the party’s choice of candidate or their selection process.
Finally, the tribunal dismissed the petitions by the governorship candidates of the NNPP, Senator John James Akpan Udoedehe, and ANC, Ezekiel Nyaetok, for lacking merit.