By Anietie Akpan, Calabar
The Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Calabar has affirmed the victory of Professor Ben Ayade in the March 9,2019 governorship poll in Cross River State. The panel yesterday dismissed the petition of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Senator John Owan-Enoh, seeking to nullify the exercise on the ground that he was wrongfully excluded from the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Ruling on the petition, EPT/CAL/Gov/1/2019, chairman of the tribunal, Justice Josiah Majebi, said the first and second grounds raised in the application were irreconcilable and mutually exclusive.He noted that in the first place, the petitioner failed to seek redress within the 14 days allowed by law.
The judge disagreed with Owan-Enoh that he was wrongfully excluded by the second respondent, INEC, stressing that much of the grievances expressed by him were pre-election matters which the panel had no jurisdiction to entertain. He named some of contentious issues to include nomination, withdrawal and exclusion from the poll.
Majebi said: “Disputes within a given political party before actual election such as nomination or withdrawal or exclusion are pre-election issues. Our mandates do not cover them. Therefore, such are ineffective grounds. We therefore strike them out for incompetence.”
The tribunal also held that there was multiplicity of litigations by interested parties in the APC regarding the governorship election which complicated the petition by Owan-Enoh. The judge said they had carefully considered the applications, written addresses and counter responses by the respondents, and have overruled many views of the petitioner as lacking in merit and amounting to abuse of court processes, maintaining that the petition “is academic, hypothetical and frivolous.”
He went on: “The petitioner’s allegation that he was excluded from the election yet he scored valid votes of 131,161 makes his petition contradictory.“Having painstakingly and profoundly looked into the submissions and considered several legal authorities, we hereby reject the entire evidence given by the petitioner, and dismiss the petition as lacking in merit. We resolved the matter in favour of the first respondent.
“Consequently, we hereby declared that Prof. Benedict Ayade was duly elected on March 9,2019 as the Governor of Cross River State.”Similarly, the former Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani of the APC, who had insisted that he was the candidate of APC and dragged Ayade too to the tribunal, also lost.
Reacting, the governor dedicated his victory to God and the people of the state. Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Christian Ita, Ayade said he was not surprised by the verdict since his victory was never in doubt.