Akwa Ibom North West: Okori alleges plot to scuttle appeal as APC blasts tribunal

Inibehe Okori

Inibehe Okori, challenging Akpabio's victory at the tribunal

Inibehe Okori, challenging Akpabio's victory at the tribunal
Inibehe Okori, challenging Akpabio’s victory at the tribunal

The All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Akwa Ibom North West, Inibehe Okori, has raised alarm over what he believes are efforts by the tribunal to sabotage his appeal.

The National Assembly Election Tribunal headed by Justice Goddy Anunihu had on Wednesday upheld the election of former governor, Godswill Akpabio as senator representing Akwa Ibom North West.

Okori had approached the tribunal challenging conduct of the election and declaration of Akpabio as winner of the poll.

On Friday however, Okori lamented that more than 48 hours after the judgment was delivered, the judge was yet to release copy of the ruling to enable them proceed to the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling.

In a statement, he said, “The decision to withhold the judgement is part of a grand conspiracy by both the tribunal chairman and Akpabio to prevent the appeal. I know that people are making serious efforts through various illegal means to stop me, but they will not succeed”.

It would be recalled that Justice Aninuhu in his ruling on Wednesday, held that there was nothing legally wrong with 205,519 accredited voters casting 444,505 votes declared for Akpabio.

Based on evidence presented before the tribunal, the disputed Akwa Ibom North West election had 90,618 successful accreditation while Failed accreditation stood at 114,901 totalling 205,519 as total valid number of accredited voters from the ten LGA’s that make up the senatorial district. But on the final result sheet, total number of accredited voters was 461,702 while total votes allegedly cast for Akpabio was 455,505.

Justice Anunihu also insisted that even though Akpabio was nominated by the PDP for election in Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial district instead of North West where he hails from, his nomination and subsequent declaration by INEC as winner of the election was in order in so far as INEC had published his name among the list of candidates for the election 30 days to the date of the election.

The tribunal further stated that the Certified True Copy of INEC’s Card Reader report which proved that only 205,519 voters were validly accredited was admitted in error and ruled that all evidence emanating from the document be expunged.

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Justice Aninuhu also said the mode of sponsorship was not specified in the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution and therefore Akpabio’s form reading Akwa Ibom North East is a clerical error which amounts to a non issue and that Akpabio’s form reading Akwa Ibom North is an erroneous error as INEC did not complain about the nomination. Justice Aninuhu said there was nothing wrong in INEC correcting the error done by the PDP on the former Governors nomination form in so far as the PDP nominated only three senatorial candidates from the three senatorial district.

Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Akwa Ibom State has described the ruling of Justice Goddy Anunihu as a desecration of Justice. Briefing newsmen in Abuja, the party said “it observed with horror the wholesale miscarriage of justice in the outcomes of the various petitions filed by the party and its candidates at the Akwa Ibom State National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunals.”

The statement reads, “Nothing drives this point more forcefully home than the controversial decision of the Justice Goddy Anunihu-led Panel to dismiss the petition of the APC candidate for the Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district, Chief Inibehe Okori, on the grounds that Mr. Godswill Akpabio’s candidacy in Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District, rather than Akwa Ibom North West where the APC candidate contested, was a “mistake” and that the Panel’s admission of the card reader database analysis evidencing the fraudulent casting of 444,505 votes by only 205,519 accredited voters was done “in error” and had to be expunged from the Tribunal record in deciding the case.

“In our view, this fraudulently contrived and inconsistent verdict by Justice Anunihu has, once again, brought the judiciary in the country into opprobrium and raised serious questions over the integrity of the Nigerian justice system”.

The party, through its chairman, Amadu Attai, recalled that the 2015 general elections in Akwa Ibom State ” were adjudged by national and International observers as electoral aberration unknown to civilization. Indeed, everything that played out in the violent and fraudulent elections was clinically executed in consonance with Godswill Obot Akpabio.

“We instructively recall that while addressing an assembly of 850 local “election monitors” at a tent in the Government House residence in 2011, Mr. Godswill Akpabio had bragged that: “Once the winner of a governorship election has been announced in Nigeria, it is now your word against the world. INEC cannot help you again, even in the Tribunal. That means you will drag from the first Tribunal to the High Court; from the High Court to the Court of Appeal; from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court and if you know the Nigerian judicial system, once the Governor is announced, before the Supreme Court finishes listening to the opposition case, our tenure as governor has finished”.

The APC in Akwa Ibom State expressed what it called deep frustrations and pains over the development.

“We sympathize with our people, who had hoped to redress the grave wrongs done them at the March 28 elections will be redressed at the tribunal”, it said.

The party called on the President, the Federal Government and Nigerians to intervene in the matter and ensure that justice is done.

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