The Supreme Court, Monday, has given reasons why it upheld the April 11, 2015, governorship election of Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State.
Adducing reasons for the unanimous judgment it delivered on February 3, a seven-man panel of Justices of the apex court, maintained that neither the All Progressives Congress (APC), nor its gubernatorial candidate in the state, Umana Okon Umana, was able to prove that the election was rigged.
The Supreme Court panel faulted both the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal and the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which it said failed to properly evaluate the evidence and case that the contending parties filed before them.
The apex court held that the Justice Sadiq Umar-led tribunal, failed to properly evaluate both oral and documentary evidence that were presented before it by the All Progressives Congress, APC, and it governorship candidate in the state, Umana Okon Umana.
Justice Adefunke Okojie who delivered the lead verdict, stressed that the lower tribunal erred by not according probative value to a document that indicated that the election was characterised by “massive over-voting”.
She noted that exhibit -322 that was tendered before the tribunal, showed that the number of votes recorded at the end of the election, exceeded the total number of accredited voters.
Besides, it was the position of the appellate that the said exhibit, which was a report on number of voters that were captured by the Smart Card Reader Machines, indicated that there was an excess of 685,78 votes.
Fustice Okojie said it was not enough for the tribunal to anchor its reason for nullifying election in only 18 LGAs on the fact that a total of 566, 436 voters in the affected areas were disenfranchised during the governorship poll.
She faulted the tribunal for holding that the petitioners failed to prove that allegation of electoral fraud and non-compliance was not substantial enough to warrant the outright cancellation of the governorship election. More so, the appellate court held that the petitioners, having adduced evidence that the election was not properly conducted as required by the law, it said the onus was on the respondents- Governor Emmanuel, PDP, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to prove that there was substantial compliance.
It held that the tribunal was wrong by laying the whole burden of proof on the petitioners, saying “whichever way one looks at it, facts show that votes recorded at the end of the election where far in excess of the total number of accredited voters”.
The court therefore declared that the 1st respondent, Governor Emmanuel, was not duly elected by majority of lawfully cast votes.
“The tribunal was wrong by failing to invalidate the entire election. The appeal succeeds.”