The minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Sen Godswill Akpabio, and his opponent in the election of Akwa Ibom North East (Ikot Ekpene) senatorial district, Chris Ekpenyong, will know their fate next week as the National Assembly election tribunal rounds off its sitting in the state.
The Akpabio/Ekpenyong’s case is the only senatorial election petition pending at the tribunal after that of Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District between Sen Bassey Albert of the PDP and Bassey Etim of the APC was on Thursday ruled in favour of Albert.
The defeated Sen Nelson Efiong of the APC did not challenge the election of the PDP Sen Akon Eyakenyi for Akwa Ibom South (Eket) senatorial district.
The tribunal presided over by Justice Jennifer Ijohor, same day also upheld the elections of Mr Unyime Idem of the PDP for Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency and Nse Ekpenyong of Oron/Udung Uko/Urueffong Oruko/Mbo/Okobo federal constituency also of the PDP.
The PDP swept the whole ruling as the tribunal also upheld the election of Mr Michael Enyong for Uyo federal constituency, which was challenged by Mr Ekerete Ekpenyong of the APC.
In the respective rulings in favour of the respondents, the three-member tribunal sitting at the State Sanitation Court Complex in Uyo, cited the inability of petitioners to prove allegations of criminality and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, as contained in their petitions.
In the Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District petition, the petitioners, Bassey Etim, candidate of the All Progressives Congress, had alleged that Bassey Albert was not elected by majority of lawful votes; not qualified to contest the National Assembly elections as his documents were falsified; his emergence was by reason of corrupt practices; and there was the non-compliance with the Electoral Act by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The petitioners who were represented at the tribunal by Mr Reuben Egwaba relied on Section 140(3) to urge that the tribunal nullifies the election of Senator Bassey Albert and declare Mr Bassey Etim as the winner.
In the alternative, the Mr Bassey Etim called on the tribunal to order a fresh election and exclude the PDP and Senator Bassey Albert from contesting.
However, the PDP’s counsel, Mr O. B. Akpan and that of the 1st respondent Mr. Solomon Umoh SAN represented by M. D. Gwaison, submitted that the petitioners, who made wild criminal allegations of falsification of documents and noncompliance with electoral act, did not tender any other document to prove their claim.
Akpan, also said that a witness subpoenaed by the petitioner, S. O. Ibrahim, Deputy Director, Legal Department of INEC had testified that Senator Albert satisfied INEC’s screening to contest the elections, and that no reports have been received by INEC from WAEC or any of the institutions denying any document submitted by Senator Albert.