The Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] has urged the Appeal Court to set aside the judgment of the Akwa Ibom state Governorship Elections Tribunal and to confirm Governor Udom Emmanuel [above] as the valid winner of the April 11, 2015 governorship elections having polled the majority of votes cast by the electorates.
In a cross appeal number EPT/AK/GOV/1/2015, the electoral umpire which faulted the order for a rerun in 18 local Government areas by the Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar -chaired tribunal, prayed the appellate court to dismiss the Petition of Mr Umana Umana and the All Progressives Congress.
This brief of argument by INEC in a joined Appeal with the state resident electoral commissioner Austin Okogie was adopted before the Appeal Court by counsel to the appellants Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu [SAN].
The brief of argument cited 13 grounds in which the lower court erred in its judgement on October 21, 2015, and sued that the tribunal never provided sufficient proof that the voters were disenfranchised during the elections.
INEC averred that the foundation of the entire petition was commission of electoral offences of diversion of election materials, inflation and forgery of election results, but that Mr Umana failed to prove the allegations beyond doubts as required by law.
The INEC Counsel also posited that it was not open to the Tribunal to nullify results in all the Polling Units 18 local government areas based on hearsay by witnesses of the defeated APC candidate Mr Umana.
An instance, according to Ikpeazu, is the statement by Obong Victor Attah that as he was “…driving back to his house people were waiving hands [and] when he asked them, they said there was no election” is not related to any polling Unit in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area of Akwa-Ibom State.
It would have been logical for the petitioner at the tribunal to have presented the disenfranchised voters with their voters cards, “rather than relying on the testimonies of witnesses who claimed that they put phone calls across to their friends who said there were no elections.”
The INEC counsel also argued that the signing of the Local Government result sheet and Ward result sheets by a single agent cannot nullify votes cast at Polling Units and recorded in Forms EC8A, as occasioned by the cancellation of some local government election results by the tribunal.
The electoral commission counsel briefed the court that “the non-signing of the result by agents of other political parties will not on its own render the results invalid,”
The INEC counsel posited that the tribunal judges did not evaluate any evidence of witnesses that testified in respect of nine of the 18 Local Government Areas cancelled, namely, Ibeno, Ibiono-Ibom, Nsit Ibom, Nsit Ubium, Ini, Oron, Nsit Atai, Etinan, and Udung Uko.
Ikpeazu added that no sufficient witnesses were called from the Polling Units to testify that they were disfranchised in nine (9) Local Government Areas namely, Etim Ekpo, Uyo, Ikono, Ibesikpo Asutan, Onna, Ikot Abasi, Oruk Anam, Uruan, and Eket.
Joined as respondents in the appeal by INEC and The Resident Electoral Commissioner, are Mr Umana Umana, the All Progressives Congress, Mr Udom Emmanuel, The Peoples Democratic Party [PDP], and the Police.
The Appeal Court has reserved ruling to a later date.