The Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Tribunal on Wednesday in Abuja ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to rerun the governorship election in 18 out of the 31 local government council areas of Akwa Ibom State.
The Local Government Areas were the election was nullified by the tribunal include Etim Ekpo, Uyo, Nsit Ibom, Nsit Atai, Etinan, Ibesikpo, Onna, Ibeno, and Ikono among others.
The re-run, according to the tribunal, would produce a clear winner of the election conducted on April 11, 2015 between Governor Udom Emmanuel of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Umana Umana of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Sadiq Umar, gave the order while delivery judgment on the election petition filed by Umana Umana.
The tribunal nullified the elections in the affected council areas and Justice Umar said that the petition of the petitioner succeeded in part.
In the judgment that lasted over seven hours, the tribunal agreed with the petitioner that the electorate were disenfranchised as a result of violence, snatching of election materials, irregularities and harassment of INEC staff.
However, the tribunal was silent in the prayer seeking invalidation of the election of Governor Emmanuel Udom.
Earlier in the judgment, the tribunal had dismissed the forensic report on the grounds that those who generated the report admitted in their witnesses’ statements that they were not forensic experts.
The tribunal also dismissed the press statement issued by INEC on the use of Card reader for the election.
According to Justice Umar, “the Card reader report is not a conclusive report to ascertain the actual number of accredited voters. That press release concerning the Card reader report is null and void as it offended the provisions of section 49 of the Electoral Act which deals on the process of accreditation in an election.
Justice Umar said that the petitioners have proved beyond reasonable doubt that election was inconclusive in some of the 18 local government areas while in others it did not hold.
He said that there were evidences before the tribunal that the April 11 governorship election actually took place in the rest 13 local government council in the state.
Justice Sadiq Umar had earlier dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Governor Emmanuel for lack of merit.
Reacting to the ruling, the All Progressives Congress in Akwa Ibom State, on Wednesday, said it will appeal the judgment.
The state chairman of the party, Dr. Amadu Atai, stated that the party was not satisfied with the tribunal’s nullification of elections in 18 local government areas.
He added that there had been widespread irregularities in the governorship polls in all local government areas of the state, and in some cases, there were no elections at all.
According to him, the decisions of the tribunal, regarding the April 11 governorship election in the state, are inconclusive, saying the APC had begun the process of appeal.
“The tribunal has cancelled the governorship elections in 18 local government areas as it ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct elections in the affected LGAs. But we are going to appeal because we expect cancellation in more local government areas, where discrepancies were pervasive,” he said.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman in the state, Mr. Paul Ekpo, however, said the judgment was very confusing.
He added that the only good thing about the judgment was that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, still remained in power.
According to him, PDP will meet to review the decisions of the tribunal.
Ekpo added: “The judgement is very confusing except that my governor, who had won elections overwhelmingly in the state, still remains the governor. The rerun in 18 LGAs, as ordered by the tribunal, as you know, we will win. Besides, we will meet at the party level to look at the judgement.”