Akwa Ibom State Elders have called for the setting up of a judicial panel of inquiry into what they called contradictory judgments in the election petitions.
In a statement issued yesterday, the elders expressed concerns over “the clear cases of miscarriage of justice in nearly all of the decided cases so far”.
The statement was signed by leader of the Uyo Elders Forum, Otuekong Jackson Udoh, Obong Rita Akpan, former minister; Dr Ime Okopido, former minister; and Professor Okon Eminue, former chairman, Governing council of Akwa Ibom State University.
Part of the statement read: “Our concerns are based on the fact that if the election petitions were determined on their merits, the judicial decisions would have been consistent with the demands of justice. It is worthy of note that the European Union, the American government, African Union and local election monitors all condemned the conduct of the polls in Akwa Ibom and Rivers states. In a unanimous verdict, the representatives of the international community that monitored the elections stated categorically that elections as known to Nigerian laws did not take place in both Akwa Ibom and Rivers states”.
The group added: “Local security reports on the elections in both states equally stated that the said elections were substantially marred by irregularities and violence. Most of the judicial decisions on the Akwa Ibom election petitions and appeals ignored the position of the international community on the polls. But the world cannot be wrong. The judges and justices that handled the election petitions and appeals in Rivers State agreed with the international community. Why is the Akwa Ibom case different?”
They further stated: “We have noted with disbelief how most of the rulings of the various tribunals and the Court of Appeal were clearly inconsistent with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution. In all the election cases so far decided, a serious case of over voting was established. For instance, during the governorship election petition, evidence was led before the tribunal to establish a case of over voting where 1,222,836 votes were recorded by Akwa Ibom State INEC as against INEC headquarters Card Reader data which showed that only 437,128 voters were accredited to cast ballot in the governorship election.
“The voters’ register also showed a lower figure of 448, 307 as having been accredited to vote in the election. It is just not possible for 437,128 voters, going by the Card reader figure (or 448, 307, according to the voters’ register) to cast 1,222,836 votes. Section 53 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, provides for the cancellation of elections where there are incidents of over voting. By failing to cancel the entire governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, the election petition tribunal ignored the clear provision of the law for the conduct of the election”.
“We want to highlight another instance of breach of the provision of the Electoral Act in the adjudication of the election petitions in Akwa Ibom State with respect to over voting. In Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District (Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District), where both the election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal upheld the election of the Senate Minority Leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio.
“The number of votes cast in the election, which stood at 450,000, according to INEC records, far exceeded the number of registered voters in the entire senatorial district, which stand at 205,000 in INEC record. The courts equally overlooked the unambiguous fact that Senator Akpabio was not presented by his party for election in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District, where he was declared elected, and rationalised that the nomination of Akpabio for election in a different senatorial district other than where he was declared winner was a minor error that was erased”.
The elders called on the international community to take note of the contrary decision in a similar case in Taraba State, where it was decided that the PDP candidate for the election, Darius Ishaku, who is now the state governor, could not be returned elected because he was not validly nominated by his party due to a similar irregularity in his nomination process.
“Votes for the PDP candidate in the election were regarded as wasted votes because he was not validly nominated. Why was the law applied differently in the case of Akwa Ibom North Senatorial District?” they queried.
They, therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to come to their aid by instituting a judicial commission of enquiry into the adjudication of all the election petitions and appeals that resulted from the elections held in Akwa Ibom State on 28 March 2015 and 11 April 2015.
“The good people of Akwa Ibom State demand to know why the Judiciary treated election cases emanating from their state completely differently from similar cases in Rivers and Taraba states”, they added.