1) We will like to start this comment with a tribute to our members and supporters for the gallantry and steadfastness with which they braved all the challenges of the extra-hostile political environment in Akwa Ibom State to turn our cry for change into a mass movement for liberation and true democracy. Our members and supporters are indeed the real heroes of the APC success story.
Above: Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel
2) We also want to put on record our utter disappointment and shock at the judgment of the Supreme Court on the PDP appeal against the victory of the APC at the Court of Appeal in the state governorship election petition. In our judgement, the judgment of the Supreme Court is an invitation to anarchy and a lamentable throwback to the Hobbesian state of brute force where life was short and nasty.
3) The Supreme Court judgment is a dangerous act of political advocacy that completely ignores the uncontested and overwhelming evidence of the petitioner at the Tribunal which had held that the petitioner had proved that there was no valid election in 18 of the 31 location government areas in the state.
4) The Supreme Court equally turned its back at the findings of the Court of Appeal that there was no valid governorship election in Akwa Ibom State on 11 April 2015. Based on evidence before it, the Court of Appeal had made the following findings:
A) MUTILATION OF BALLOT, LACK OF COLLATION, OVER-VOTING: “Mutilation or alteration of a document has been held to seal the death for that document. In other words, it makes it worthless and lifeless to the extent of the mutilation. See ORJI V. DORJI TEXTILES MILLS (NIG.) LTD (2010) ALL FWLR (PT.519) 999 AT 1020. Again, documents which ought to be signed have not been signed or purportedly signed by persons who ought not to sign, cannot be relied upon and smacks of presumption of regularity in law. Pertinent also is Exhibit 317, the report of accredited voters in the election on polling unit by polling unit in the entire State, shows that the number of accredited voters was 437, 128 while the alleged number of votes cast was 1, 222, 836. Further, the voters register reveals that the accredited voters were 448, 307 while the alleged votes cast was 1, 222, 836…. It is also trite that where over voting has been proved, the effect is to void that election.” Per Per UWANI MUSA ABBA AJI, JCA, in CA/A/EPT/656/2015 at page 28-29.
“From Eket Local Government Area almost all ward results (Form EC8B) and the Local Government result sheet ( Form EC8C) were mutilated and there was no explanation for the mutilations in so many other Local Government Areas apart from the 18 there were so many of these irregularities. There are overwhelming evidence suggesting that there was no visible collation of results at the State Collation Centre which has impugned the integrity of the Final result in Form EC8D on which the 1st Respondent in the petition was declared and returned as the winner of the election. There was also evidence of over voting. INEC have said nothing on the fact of there being no collation of results at the State Collation Centre. This fact has very telling reciprocal bearing on the integrity of the election even at the 18 affected Local Government Areas.”Per EJEMBI EKO, JCA, in CA/A/EPT/656A/2015 at page 28.”In Uyo LGA, it is apparent by the reflection on Exhibits QQ1 – QQ11 that one Joseph Okon Peter signed Form EC8B in Wards 1,3,4,6,10 and 11. One Samuel Efiok Edem signed Form EC8B in Wards 5,7 and 9 and also signed Form EC8C as LG collection agent. All the signatures of Joseph Okon Peter is dated 12/4/2015 when it is true that the said result was collated on 11/4/2015. There are also mutilations and alternations of figures in (Etoi ward 4), (Uyo Urban 2, Ward 02), (Etoi 11, Ward 05), (Oku 11, Ward 02), (Ikono 11, Ward 09), (Uyo Urban 1, Ward 01), (Ofot 1, Ward 06), (Ofot 11, Ward 07).” Per UMANI MUSA ABBA AJI, JUSTICE OF THE COURT OF APPEAL (JCA), in Appeal No. CA/A/EPT/656/2015 at page 22 – 23.
B) SINGNING OF MULTIBLE RESULT SHEETS BY ONE AGENTS: “In Uyo LGA, it is apparent by the reflection on Exhibits QQ1 – QQ11 that one Joseph Okon Peter signed Form EC8B in Wards 1,3,4,6,10 and 11. One Samuel Efiok Edem signed Form EC8B in Wards 5,7 and 9 and also signed Form EC8C as LG collection agent. All the signatures of Joseph Okon Peter is dated 12/4/2015 when it is true that the said result was collated on 11/4/2015. There are also mutilations and alternations of figures in (Etoi ward 4), (Uyo Urban 2, Ward 02), (Etoi 11, Ward 05), (Oku 11, Ward 02), (Ikono 11, Ward 09), (Uyo Urban 1, Ward 01), (Ofot 1, Ward 06), (Ofot 11, Ward 07).” Per UMANI MUSA ABBA AJI, JUSTICE OF THE COURT OF APPEAL (JCA), in Appeal No. CA/A/EPT/656/2015 at page 22 – 23.
C) RESULT SHEETS SIGNED BY PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT AGENTS: “In INI LGA, Exhibit HHH1-HHH9 show that those who signed as Ward collation agents in Form EC8B are different from those who deposed to be Ward agents. In Nkari, Ward 04, one Joseph Iseyen deposed to be witness statement on oath at pages 311- 313 of the 1st Respondent’s reply that he was the PDP Ward agent but one Hon. Godwin Akpan signed Form EC8B. In Odoro Ukwok,Ward 09, one Gabriel Asuiko deposed to WSO on pages 326-328 of the 1st Respondent’s reply that he was the PDP ward agent but one Moses Udo Solomon signed Form EC8B. In Iwere, Ward 05, one Ukpai Akpan Abia deposed to WSO in pages 314 – 316 of the 1st Respondent’s reply that he was the PDP Ward agent but one Iboro Nse Nnah signed Form EC8B. In Ikono North 2, Ward 07, one Okon Asuquo deposed to WSO in pages 320 – 322 of the 1st Respondent’s reply that he was the ward agent but one Ayanime Idiasen signed Form EC8B. In Ikpe II, Ward 02, one Richard Edikpo deposed to the WSO on pages 305 – 307 of the 1st Respondent’s reply that he was the Ward agent but one Akaniyene Ebong signed Form EC8B. In Itu Nbonuso, Ward 03, one Friday Akpan deposed to WSO on pages 308 – 310 of the 1st Respondent’s reply that he was the Ward agent but one Ekpeyong Ransome Daniel signed Form EC8B. In Ikono North III, Ward 08, one Hon. Michael Etim Ekanem deposed to WSO on pages 323 – 325 of the 1st Respondent’s reply that he was the Ward agent but one Imoh Abam signed Form EC8B. In Nsuk, Ukwok, Ward 10, one Chief Sunday Obiofin deposed to WSO on pages 329 – 331 of the 1st Respondent’s reply that he was the Ward agent but one Isreal Ufia Inyang signed Form EC8B.” Per UMANI MUSA ABBA AJI, JUSTICE OF THE COURT OF APPEAL (JCA), in Appeal No. CA/A/EPT/656/2015 at page 24 – 25.
D) OVER-VOTING: “The issue of over voting, like the overwhelming evidence of there being no collation exercise at the State Collation Centre, are weighty enough to warrant INEC offering explanation since a strong prima facie case had been made that the election, as conducted, was not in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act. As submitted by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, there are other cases of non-compliance with the Electoral Act which evidence abound in the Record. They include cases of the same persons across different and diverse polling units and wards in different Local Government Areas signing result sheets or electoral forms. Those persons were not shown to be omnipresent at the same time in those various places. INEC had the evidential burden to satisfactorily explain these irregularities and incidents of non-compliance with the Electoral Act and INEC Guidelines etc that are capable of vitiating the election.” Per EJEMBI EKO, JCA, in CA/A/EPT/656A/2015 at page 21.
E) BURDENT OF PROOF: “From the state of the evidence before the Tribunal, the burden placed on the Appellant to prove the figures accredited by INEC on the date of the election was discharged, I hold, by the production of the Report from INEC (Exhibit 317) detailing the data of accreditated voters. The Respondents, however, failed to discharge the evidential burden which shifted on them to disprove the documentary figures produced by the Appellants, they being the party who, by Section 133 (2) of the Evidence Act would fail if no further evidence is adduced in rebuttal. The lower Tribunal, I thus hold, was in grave error to have placed on the Appellants the burden of proving the figures relied upon by the Respondents as showing supplementary accreditation. It was held by the Supreme Court in the case of Okoye v Nwankwo (2014) 15 NWLR Part 1429 Page 93 at Para G-H per Peter-Odili JSC that where the burden of proof has been wrongly placed on the wrong party, there is the likelihood of miscarriage of justice.” Per OLUDOTUN ADEBOLA ADEFOPE-OKOJIE, JCA, in CA/A/EPT/656c/2015 at page 44.
“In the event that one takes the figures in the voters register, which the Respondents claim that they had recourse to on failure of the Card Readers, the total figure of votes accredited is 448, 307, short of the total votes cast by a whopping 674, 529 votes. Again, for the purpose of arguments, if one were to combine both the Card Reader and the Voter’s Register accreditation, the total is 885, 435, still short of the total number of votes cast. Indeed, the last two scenarios are in the realm of speculation, the Respondents, as held by me above, have produced no figures of accredited voters in rebuttal of the figures produced by the Appellants.” Per OLUDOTUN ADEBOLA ADEFOPE-OKOJIE, JCA, in CA/A/EPT/656c/2015 at page 46.
“Whichever way one looks at it, the facts show that the votes recorded at the Governorship elections of April 11th, 2015 were far in excess of the voters accredited for that election. Where the number of votes cast at an election is more than the number of accredited voters, there is a massive irregularity, with the only conclusion being that the candidate returned as the winner did not secure the total number of votes cast. Per OLUDOTUN ADEBOLA ADEFOPE-OKOJIE, JCA, in CA/A/EPT/656c/2015 at page 46.
“The case of Ucha v Elechi Supra relied on for proof of non compliance by production of evidence polling unit by polling unit, ward by ward, can thus not apply in a case as in the instant one, when the very foundation of the election is flawed.” Per OLUDOTUN ADEBOLA ADEFOPE-OKOJIE, JCA, in CA/A/EPT/656c/2015 at page 47.
“It is my opinion that the Tribunal, having believed the evidence of PW33 without reservation and having seen in open court video clips (Exhibit 5 and 6) showing the locking of the gate at INEC should have proceeded to hold it proved that there was indeed no collation of results of the election in question and that votes were merely “allocated”. No finding on this important aspect was unfortunately made by the Tribunal. The evidence of PW33 on the failure of collation is not alone in this contention. Other witnesses also gave evidence of the lack of collation, not only at the ward and local government levels but also at the State level…. The lower Tribunal strangely made no mention nor drew any conclusions from this evidence. The question is, if there is no collation of results, can there be said to be an election? In the absence of any collation of results, the injunction that evidence should be produced by the Appellants from each polling booth by polling booth, as held in the case of Ucha v Elechi Supra, can thus not apply to a case, as in the instant, where there is clear evidence that there was no collation of results.” Per OLUDOTUN ADEBOLA ADEFOPE-OKOJIE, JCA, in CA/A/EPT/656c/2015 at page 56.Where there is no collation of results, there cannot be an election, I hold. Per OLUDOTUN ADEBOLA ADEFOPE-OKOJIE, JCA, in CA/A/EPT/656c/2015 at page 57.
F) AKWA IBOM GUBER POLL AS NIGERIA’S WORST: “I chip in a word of warning. May this country never again experience the violence and thuggery found to have taken place in Akwa Ibom State during the Governorship elections held on 11th April 2015. Politics should never be so desperate that lives and decorum are sacrificed on the altar of winning at all costs. The descent into almost anarchy as occurred in this case must never again be allowed to take place. The supervising body, INEC, is charged at all times to remain on the side of truth and never be complicit in any subversion of due process.” Per OLUDOTUN ADEBOLA ADEFOPE-OKOJIE, JCA, in CA/A/EPT/656c/2015 at page 58.
The findings of the Tribunal and the Court of Appeal were consistent with the reports of the local and international election monitors who had independently reached the conclusions that the governorship election of 11 April 2015 in Akwa Ibom was flawed beyond redemption. Following are the reports of the election monitors on the election:
i) THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT: “We have seen the reports of violence and irregularities, particularly in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states. We hereby call on aggrieved parties to pursue their grievances peacefully in the judicial arena.”
ii) THE EUROPEAN UNION: “The elections on 11 April 2015 were … marred by systemic weaknesses, misuse of incumbency, use of violence, and an increasingly pressured environment for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), especially in the south. The election day process appeared to be overall more efficient, however procedural shortcomings were prevalent and incidents of violence and interference were evident, especially in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states….Incidents of violence and interference were most pronounced in Rivers and Akwa Ibom….Problems were most pronounced in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states where there are multiple credible reports of violence and interference, which warrant further investigation.”
iii) NIGERIAN CIVIL SOCIETY: “Information obtained from our networks of field observers and partners indicate the following: Numerous cases of electoral misconduct at polling units – 10 reports in Akwa Ibom. [There were] killings in Rivers State where seven people (including a police officer) were killed and in Akwa Ibom where three people were killed. The Situation Room hereby calls on INEC to urgently take steps to clinically scrutinise the final collated results from Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia against the polling unit results and make a reasoned judgment about them.”
In the light of the facts of our case as upheld by both the Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, we find the judgment of the Supreme Court to be weird, arbitrary and an inexplicable endorsement of violence and electoral fraud that was procured by the use of state power and resources for evil ends.
We find it strange and instructive that on the judgment day, as soon as the Justices of the Supreme Court retired to their chamber to consider their judgment, the Senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, arrived obviously on cue by 8pm with a large contingent of praise singers, and proceeded to address PDP supporters within the court premises, telling them that it was all over. With the shout of his supporters renting the air, Akpabio caused quite a stir as he swept into the courtroom, breaking all protocols in a frenzy of banters with PDP and Udom Emmanuel’s lawyers whom he equally assured, “It is all over.” It was a display that totally called into question the integrity of the Supreme Court and vitiated its judgment on the Akwa Ibom governorship election petition appeal.
Nothing highlights the fraudulent nature of the Akwa Ibom governorship election and nothing better establishes the perversity of the Supreme Court judgment than the fact that Udom Emmanuel who was declared winner of the election had no explanation as to how 437, 128 accredited voters by Card Readers or 448, 307 accredited voters by Voter’s Register could validly produce 1, 122, 836 votes purportedly cast in the election, 996,071 of which were declared for Udom Emmanuel. These were findings from certified true copies of INEC documents, which were upheld by the Court of Appeal. The case of over-voting and other irregularities were painstakingly established in 27 local government areas out of 31, with 2,982 polling units.
In his pleadings, Udom Emmanuel had said he would tender incident forms to account for the differentials. They were never tendered, even though the incident forms were taken to Abuja from Uyo, because they were filled several weeks after the election and therefore could not be signed by the designated INEC staff.
Nigerians should then ask the Supreme Court how it reached its findings that Udom Emmanuel was lawfully returned in spite of this glaring evidence of over-voting and other mind-boggling irregularities.
The case of the signing of result sheets in many wards by one person was also well established. In Mkpat Enin Local Government Area for instance, one Barr Jerry Akpan signed the result sheets in all the 14 wards of the local government area. As rightly held by the Court of Appeal, Jerry Akpan couldn’t have been at all the wards simultaneously to sign these documents, a clear evidence that there was no collation at the wards, as we had also presented unchallenged evidence that there was no collation at the state level.
We are therefore calling on the President and Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the hearing of the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Appeal and the judgment by the Supreme Court. We believe such enquiry is inevitable to address the possible consequences of the Supreme Court judgment which is bound to encourage resort to self help, violence and all forms of illegality and barbarity in the quest for power.
Dr Amadu Attai
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