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Don’t Damage The Peaceful Image Of Akwa Ibom - Judge Warns Blackmailers

…AFFIRMS GOV EMMANUEL’S VICTORY
By Essien Ndueso

The Chairman of the Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal, Justice A. M. Yakubu has rued politicians for attempting to create a negative security impression about the state for political gains.

The three-man panel chairman while delivering judgement in the petitions filed by Obong Nsima Ekere of the All Progressives Congress against the election of Governor Udom Emmanuel of the Peoples Democratic Party, said it was sad that some politicians who were pursuing their personal interests, could write petitions and describe their own state as insecure, when the state was the most peaceful in Nigeria.

“Don’t allow politics to make you lost that position as a peaceful state. Not now and in the future because everyone who comes here knows that your state is very peaceful and will always like to come and stay.”

Justice Yakubu who ruled in support of the victory of Governor Emmanuel, lamented that several petitions where written to the President of the Court of Appeal, requesting the movement of the tribunal to Abuja on the ground of insecurity, but he stood his ground in defense of the peace he witnessed in the state.

“Most times, the President of the Court of Appeal would call me and tell me about more petitions against the state, and I will tell her that no such thing was happening and everywhere is peaceful.”

He said apart from the President of the Court of Appeal, heads of security agencies and fellow judges also called to express concerns over his security, following sensational reports and petitions that the tribunal should be relocated to Abuja.

He said he saw nothing to worry in all his stay, either in the court or outside the courtroom within the state.

Mr Ekere of the APC approached the tribunal, after several amendments on two grounds, that the Election was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, and that the 1st Respondent, Mr Udom Emmanuel was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election.

The petitioner also sought the ordering of fresh elections in all the local governments of Akwa Ibom State except Etim Ekpo and Essien Udim, where Mr Ekere claimed he won.

Reading the over 590 paged judgement, Justice A. M. Yakubu noted that the petitioners failed to call witnesses in eight (8) local government areas out of the twenty one (21) local government areas where they claimed to have won and consequently discountenanced every documentary evidence "dumped on the court" as regards the petitioners’ complaints from those Local Governments.

Citing the supreme Court case of Nweke v INEC, the court noted that documentary evidence however daring cannot be thrown at the Tribunal without oral evidence linking the documents to the issues in the case (petition).

On whether in the light of issues joined, the March 9 Elections were not held in non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010; the court held that “the Petitioners having abandoned their prayers where they claimed ab initio that the first Petitioner, Obong Nsima Ekere was the winner of the elections, all the evidence given in effort to substantiate the said ground is expunged from the considerations of the court in the judgement.

The tribunal also ruled that the Petitioners having abandoned their prayers hinged on the ground that there were corrupt practices in the conduct of the elections, all the evidence given in effort to substantiate the said ground was also expunged from the considerations of the court in the judgement.

Dismissing the exhibits tendered in form of PVCs of witnesses, party agents’ tags, and other documents, the tribunal observed that the petitioners also failed to follow the laid down rules in frontloading and listing all documents they sought to rely upon in proof of their Petition, "consequently the efforts and attempt by the petitioners to sandwich-in documents not pleaded nor listed by the petitioners is condemnable."

The court equally noted that the documents were not linked to any parts of the petition and that most of them were mere photocopies of public documents and not the required Certified True Copies of the documents.

The four hour judgement which started from 9.07am also maintained that, the Petitioners could not prove substantial non-compliance that could warrant cancellation of the elections and the 43 witnesses could do little to help his case.

On the criminal allegations made by the petitioners, the Petitioners, according to the tribunal, could not prove anything, in line with the assertion that he who alleges must prove beyond reasonable doubts.

Justice Yakubu however failed to award cost to any party, but thanked the Counsel for their maturity and cooperation.

Responding, the Counsel to the APC Barr Victor Iyanam thanked the tribunal judges for the manner they handled the case and prayed for God’s blessings upon them.

Counsel to the 1st Respondent, Assam Assam,SAN and that of the Second Respondent, Tayo Oyetibo,SAN commended the tribunal judges for maintaining harmony and upholding discipline in the tribunal throughout the petition.

The State Party Chairman, Paul Ekpo, led party stakeholders, government officials and supporters to the tribunal.