Appeal Court Sacks A’Ibom Governor
THE Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, yesterday sacked Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State on the grounds that the election that returned him as governor was not in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
In a unanimous verdict of the five-man panel, presided over by Justice Oludotun-Okojie, on the petition filed by the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Umana Okon Umana, the appeal court held that the petitioner had satisfied it with evidence put forth that the election was flawed and fraught with irregularities.
The state Election Petition Tribunal had on October 21, this year nullified elections in 18 out of the 31 councils of the state.
But the appeal court held that the Tribunal erred when after establishing that the irregularities in the election were widespread, failed to cancel same and order the conduct of a fresh election in the entire state.
The appellate court held that the evidence from all parties showed that there was no collation during the said election and as such, election could not be said to have been conducted under that circumstances.
The panel also held that the lack of substantial compliance with the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election was a strong and compelling ground for the Tribunal to have nullified the entire election.
According to the court, there was no dispute that the votes cast on the election day exceeded the number of accredited voters for the election.
It said in the face of overwhelming evidence of malpractices, Udom could not have been said to have scored the majority of the lawful votes cast.
According to Justice Oludotun-Okojie: “Although 437, 128 voters were accredited for the election, over 1, 222, 885 votes were said to have been cast, showing an excess of 685, 780 votes accredited for the poll.
“From some provisions of the law and simple arithmetic, no one needs a soothsayer to conclude that there was over-voting in the entire election in the state.”
Consequently, the panel nullified the entire election and ordered a fresh election within 90 days.
Umana, in the appeal argued by his lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), prayed the court for cancellation of the entire election in view of the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to comply with the Electoral Act and guidelines for the election.