APPEAL COURT ORDERS RERUN IN AKPABIO’S SENATORIAL DISTRICT

By Godson Ikiebey-

The Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar, Cross River State has ordered a rerun election in Essien Udim Local Government Area (LGA) of Akwa Ibom State.

Essien Udim is one of the LGAs in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District of the state where Senator Godswill Akpabio of the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost to Senator Christopher Ekpenyong in the February 23, 2019 election.

Senator Akpabio, who is currently the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, had gone to the appeal court to challenge the ruling of the National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in Uyo, which affirmed the victory of Senator Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In its judgement delivered on Saturday, November 9, 2019, the court declared as invalid, the declaration of Senator Christopher Ekpenyong as the winner of the election and the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial district.

It, therefore, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC to conduct a fresh election in Essien Udim Local Government Area of the state within 90 days.

The appellate court held that there was proof of irregularities and non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election within Essien Udim LGA and as such, no one should have been declared a winner.

It stressed that the right thing to do was to conduct a fresh election in the disputed area.

The court, however, noted that in Obot Akara LGA, also within the central district, the appellant could not prove the claim of over-voting or irregularities.

The judgement came barely two months after the Tribunal held that Ekpenyong was the duly elected senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District in the National Assembly.

The Tribunal had, in a majority judgement of two out of the three-man panel of justices, dismissed Senator Akpabio’s petition for “lacking merit”.

It held that the petitioner failed to prove that he won the said election, adding that he could not present convincing evidence of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, as raised in his petition.

The Tribunal, therefore, upheld as valid, the declaration of Senator Ekpenyong as the winner of the election.

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