Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the April 11 governorship election in the state, Chief Umana Okon Umana, now await the decision of the state Election Petition Tribunal, which has reserved judgment indefinitely in Umana’s petition, challenging the Governor’s victory in the election.
Justice Sadiq Umar, the tribunal chairman, at the tribunal’s resumed sitting on Friday, reserved judgment following the conclusion of hearing of the petition and the adoption of final written addresses by counsel to parties in the petition.
At the adoption of the final brief of arguments, the petitioner’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the tribunal to nullify the election of Governor Udom on the ground that the petitioner had proved beyond reasonable doubt that there was no valid governorship election in the state in the last general election.
Olanipekun urged the tribunal to thoroughly look at the evidence and exhibits put at its disposal by the petitioners so as to arrive at a just conclusion in its judgment.
Governor Udom through his counsel, Chief Paul Usoro (SAN), in his submission, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition in its entirety.
The governor’s counsel argued that the petitioner failed to establish the fact that there was no election as the petitioner gave evidence in less than fifty units out of over two thousand polling units in the state.
Usoro also contended that the totality of evidence adduced by the witnesses of the governor and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), confirmed that there was peaceful election in the state which produced clear winners in the person of Governor Emmanuel Udom.
The other respondents in the petition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), while aligning with Udom’s counsel in their submissions, said the election was conducted peacefully, free and fair, and was won by Udom.
Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), counsel to PDP, and Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), INEC counsel, prayed the tribunal to uphold Governor Udom’s election.
All the three respondents had earlier argued three applications praying the tribunal to dismiss the petition for being “incompetent in content and in nature.”
Udom and PDP had further urged the tribunal to jettison the petition on account of being unmeritorious as a result of the wrongful nomination of the running mate of the petitioner Mr. Benedict Ukpong.
According to them, there were myriad contradictions in the reliefs and prayers sought by the petitioner, coupled with the petitioner’s witnesses’ failure to use full identities of their witnesses instead of their initials.
Oyetibo, while adopting PDP’s address, argued that Umana’s petition was not competent because his running mate, MrUkpong, was not qualified for nomination by the APC.
According to him, Ukpong did not resign his appointment at the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) as prior to his running for the office of deputy governor as constitutionally stipulated.
Oyetibo argued that at the time of the conduct of the election, Ukpong was still drawing salaries from FCDA in contravention of the Electoral Act 2010.
Usoro, in his response, challenged the competence of the petition on the ground of contradictions in the reliefs sought by the petitioners, arguing that they were not consistent in the issues raised by them.
He further challenged the use of initials by the witnesses of the petitioners in their statements on oath, adding that the failure to spell out the full names of the witnesses was fatal to the petition and rendered it incompetent and liable to dismissal.
Objecting to the three applications, Olanipekun (SAN) urged the tribunal to discountenance the three applications for lacking in merit.
“It is not the business of the tribunal to look into the nomination of a running mate of the petitioner,” he said.
Justice Umar reserved judgment on the substantive petition, as well as the three applications, until a later date to be communicated to the parties.