Appeal Court: Ebonyi Gov, Akpabio Elections Upheld

The Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu on Friday upheld the election of Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, even as its counterpart in Abuja also upheld the election of Godswill Akpabio as senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District.

The case against Gov. Umahi was brought against his election by Labour Party gubernatorial candidate, Edward Nkwegu.

In throwing out the appeal the Governor, the court described the suit as “functionally useless and lacking in merit.”

The Labour Party candidate had appealed the judgment of the Election Petition Tribunal, which upheld the election of Mr. Umahi of the Peoples Democratic Party, as governor of Ebonyi State.

In October, the tribunal in Abakaliki, the state capital, dismissed the petition filed by Mr. Nkwegu, challenging the declaration of Mr. Umahi as winner of the election.

The tribunal had ruled that the petition lacked merit and that the petitioner was unable to prove his allegations.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the tribunal, the petitioner proceeded to the court of appeal in Enugu to challenge the verdict.

In the appeal filed by his counsel, U.N Udechukwu, Mr. Nkwegu prayed the Appeal Court to set aside the judgment of the tribunal, describing the verdict as a grave error of law.

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He urged the court to annul the election of Mr. Umahi and order fresh election, saying the election was marred by widespread irregularities.

But counsel to Mr. Umahi, Arthur Okafor, urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking merit.

He said Mr. Umahi was validly elected and that his election complied with the Electoral Act.

In a related development, the Court of Appeal in Abuja on Friday upheld the election of Godswill Akpabio as senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District.

In a unanimous judgment, Justice Moshood Oredola, who led a three-man panel of justices of the court, held that the appellant failed to prove the allegation of irregularities and malpractices.

Mr. Oredola, therefore, dismissed the case for lacking in merit and upheld the decision of the lower tribunal which had endorsed the election.

The court also held that the oral evidence of appellant’s witness and that of the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), successfully refuted the case of non-qualification alleged by the appellant.

The appellate court also said that Mr. Akpabio met the requirements of Section 65 (2) of the 1999 Constitution which clearly states that a person can only contest an election if he is a member of a political party and sponsored by it.

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The court also held that evidence showed that there was no other candidate for Akwa Ibom North-West for PDP and as such it was clear that nobody was deceived as to the candidature of Mr. Akpabio.

“It is clear that the error in one of the nomination papers which contained Akwa Ibom North-East for Akpabio, instead of Akwa Ibom North-West, has been clearly and satisfactorily explained to the court without any ambiguity.

“It must be stated here that there could be mistake of fact and mistake of law and where there is remedy to be applied with law.

“The court must not hesitate to use appropriate law to resolve such mistake to the satisfaction of both parties.”

“In this case, the appellant made a case in the error contained in one of the nomination papers and the respondents especially Senator Akpabio and his party, PDP, successfully proved to the court beyond reasonable doubt.

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“An error was made and the error was successfully corrected with oral and documentary evidences proved that the error was made in a good faith.”

“The electorate that trooped out to vote on March 28, 2015 to choose the leader of their choice to serve them in the senate must not be denied the benefits of their efforts simply because a mistake was made in one of the nomination papers,” the judge ordered.

Mr. Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, is the Minority Leader in the Senate.

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