In a decisive ruling on Thursday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the victory of Governor Umo Eno from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the Akwa Ibom State Governorship election held on March 18th. The appeals lodged by Albert Bassey of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), John Akpanudoedehe of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Akanimo Udofia of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) were dismissed.
Governor Umo Eno secured his victory with 356,348 votes, as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on March 21. The challengers, dissatisfied with the results, individually brought their cases to the tribunal, listing INEC, Governor Eno, and the PDP as the first, second, and third defendants, respectively.
Their petitions were anchored on the following grounds:
(1) That the 2nd defendant was at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election having submitted a forged WAEC certificate in aid of his qualification
(2) That the Primary of the 3rd defendant that produced the 2nd defendant was not in compliance with the Electoral Law and the 1999 CFRN.
(3) That the 2nd defendant was convicted by a Magistrate Court and hence not qualified to contest the election.
In September 2023, the Justice Adekunle Adeleye led 3-man tribunal dismissed the Petitions brought by all the parties.
The tribunal upheld the preliminary objections bothering on jurisdiction and non qualification of the 2nd Respondent, and declared that Pastor Umo Eno was eminently qualified and that the earlier judgement of the Supreme Court in the case filed against him by Mr Akan Ekpe Okon was binding to all human beings, in the world, including the petitioners.
The tribunal also decided that the petitioners lacked the locus to challenge how the 3rd Respondent, PDP conducted its primaries to produce a candidate.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, all three parties appealed the separate judgements and met the same fate at the Court of Appeal.
Obviously not happy, they went a step further to the Apex Court for reprieve.
The 5-man panel led by Justice Uwani Musa Abba-Aji JSC unanimously upheld the judgements of the lower courts.
In suit No: Akanimo Udofia v. INEC & 4 Ors; the Court held that the appeal ought not to have been brought to the Court as it was a waste of time.
The Apex court also held that the allegations of criminal convictions against the governor had been set aside by a court of law.
However, counsel to the APC Hassan Liman maintained that the meat of the APC ‘s appeal was that the Governor and his deputy were once convicted by various courts.
He argued they were constitutionally disqualified from contesting the polls.
But when quizzed by the Justices, he admitted that their conviction by a Magistrate Court in Abuja was purportedly set aside by the same court and not the Appeal Court.
“As a matter of fact, you are wasting our time.,” Justice Emmanuel Agim told Liman, counsel to the APC.
“You are a senior lawyer, do what is needful,” the apex court told the lawyer, saying without an appeal, the governor was no longer a convict.
Liman finally bowed to the judges by withdrawing the appeal.
“As a senior officer of this court, I want to thank the court, I accept the decision of this court.
“I humbly in the interest of justice, apply to withdraw this appeal,” Liman said.
“This appeal, having been withdrawn without any objection, is hereby dismissed,” the apex court held.
The Apex Court also held that the dismissal was binding on the other suits since they were hinged on same grounds. Other suits affected were: SC/CV/1231/2023 (Akpanudoedehe John & NNPP v. Eno, INEC & PDP) and SC/CV/1230/2023 (Akpan Albert Bassey & YPP v. Eno, PDP & INEC)