Verdict, A Subversion of Justice, Says PDP…Heads To Supreme Court

The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Oyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Thursday upheld the election of Senator Bassey Albert for Akwa Ibom North-East (Uyo) Senatorial District. The Tribunal also upheld the victory of Hon. Unyime Idem for Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency and that of Nse Ekpenyong of Oron/Udung Uko/Urueffong Oruko/Mbo/Okobo federal constituency. The three-member tribunal sitting at the State Sanitation Court Complex in Uyo ruled in favor of the Respondents who are all members of the People Democratic Party (PDP). The tribunal cited the inability of petitioners to prove allegations of criminality and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, as contained in their petitions. Bassey Etim, the candidate and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), had told the tribunal that Bassey Albert of the PDP was not elected by majority of lawful votes; not qualified to contest the National Assembly elections as his documents were falsified; and that his emergence was by reason of corrupt practices; and non-compliance with the Electoral Act by the Independent National Electoral Commission The petitioners, who were represented at the tribunal by Reuben Egwaba Esq, relied on Section 140(3) to urge that the tribunal nullifies the election of Senator Bassey Albert and declare Mr. Bassey Etim as the winner. In the alternative, Etim called on the tribunal to order a fresh election and exclude the PDP and Senator Bassey Albert from contesting. However, Counsel to the PDP, O. B. Akpan Esq and that of the 1st Respondent Mr.Solomon Umoh SAN represented by M. D. Gwaison, submitted that the petitioners, who made wild criminal allegations of falsification of documents and noncompliance with electoral act, did not tender any other document to prove their claim. Barr Akpan also said that a witness subpoenaed by the Petitioner, S. O. Ibrahim, Deputy Director, Legal Department of INEC had testified that Senator Albert satisfied INEC’s screening to contest the elections and that no reports have been received by INEC from WAEC or any of the institutions denying any document submitted by Senator Albert. On votes acquired by Senator Albert, the respondents held that “the Petitioners submitted polling unit results as Exhibits P1-P317 and P320-P821 but merely dumped them at this Tribunal without linking any to their Petition during the trial. “All witnesses of the Petitioners including the Petitioner only relied on hearsay in their Witness Statements. They confirmed on cross-examination that they only received reports from agents,” maintaining that they were unable to pinpoint units of which INEC did not comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act. “On lawful votes, the Petitioners carefully avoided and abandoned their pleadings without giving any evidence, written or oral to prove how Senator Albert was not returned elected”. Similarly, the election of Hon. Unyime Idem was also upheld on the ground that evidence of Petitioners and their witnesses were based on hearsay from polling unit agents, without substantial evidences. In proof of their petition, the petitioners called only three (3) witnesses, PW1 – Aniebiet Sunday Idung, PW2 – Friday Thomas Uwa, PW3 – Emmanuel Ukoette However, the Tribunal upheld the argument of the respondents that, “all grave criminal allegations must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Witnesses can only give evidence at polling units where they voted”. The tribunal agreed with the 1st and 2nd respondents that the election into House of Representatives for the Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State was conducted by the 3rd Respondent in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and 2019 General Elections Guidelines and Regulations in the discharge of its constitutional function. The Tribunal also ordered the Petitioner, Emmanuel Ukoette to pay Hon. Idem the sum of one hundred thousand naira (N100, 000). Similarly, the petition brought before the tribunal by Mr. Victor Antai of the APC challenging the victory of Chief Nse Ekpenyong of the PDP for Oron Federal Constituency was dismissed for lacking in merit. As at the time of this report, the ruling was being awaited for the Uyo Federal Constituency seat where Mr. Ekerete Ekpenyong of the APC is challenging the victory of Mr. Michael Enyong of the PDP in the February 23, 2019, national assembly election.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) completely rejects the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal describing it as provocative, barefaced subversion of justice and direct assault on the integrity of our nation’s justice system.

The party is particularly shocked that the tribunal failed to point to justice despite the flawless evidence laid before it, showing that President Buhari was not only unqualified to contest the election but also did not score the majority of valid votes at the polls.

The PDP finds as bewildering that a court of law could validate a clear case of perjury and declaration of false information in a sworn affidavit, as firmly established against President Muhammadu Buhari, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.

The party is also rudely shocked that the Court took over the roles of the Respondents’ lawyers who clearly abandoned their pleadings by refusing to call evidence in defense of the petition. The court raked up all manner of excuses to make up for the yawning gaps occasioned by the total absence of any evidence from the Respondents.

Nigerians and the international community watched in utter disbelief when the tribunal ruled that one need not provide a copy or certified true copy of educational certificate such individual claimed to possess, contrary to established proof of claims of certification.

The party notes as strange that the court even went ahead to provide rationalizations in favour of President Buhari, even when all hard facts before it shows that he did not possess the claimed educational certificate and that the Army was not in possession of his WAEC certificate as claimed in the affidavit he deposed to in his Presidential nomination form.

The PDP also described as shocking that the court approved the flawed declaration of President Buhari as the winner of the election despite evidence to show the perpetration of illegalities, manipulations, alterations and subtraction of valid votes freely given to Atiku Abubakar by Nigerians.

Indeed, the pervading melancholic atmosphere across our nation since the verdict is a direct indication that the judgment has not fulfilled the desires and expectations of Nigerians.

The PDP however encouraged Nigerians to remain calm and not to lose hope or surrender to despondency or self-help, as our lawyers are upbeat in obtaining justice at the Supreme Court.

This is more so as the tribunal itself admitted that there are several errors in the judgment.