Maximum anxiety spread amongst the electorate and major stakeholders in the electoral process as Akwa Ibom Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja yesterday declared that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should conduct fresh elections in 18 out of the 31 Local Government Areas of the state.
The tribunal however refused to declare the seat of Governor Udom Emmanuel vacant, after ordering a re-run of election in the affected local government to be conducted by INEC within 90 days.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Sadiq Umar nullified the elections while delivering judgment in a petition filed by All Progressive Congress, APC, and its governorship candidate, Umana Umana.
In the judgment that lasted for over seven hours, the tribunal agreed with the petitioner that there was disenfranchisement of prospective voters as a result of violence ,snatching of election materials, irregularities and harassment of the election umpire .
However, the tribunal was silent in the prayer seeking invalidation of the election of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Earlier in the judgment, the tribunal dismissed the forensic report on the grounds that those who generated the report admitted in their witnesses statements that they were not forensic experts.
Also in the judgment, the tribunal dismissed the press statement issued by INEC in the use of card readers for the elections.
According to justice Umar, “the card reader report is not a conclusive report to ascertain the actual number of accredited voters .That press release concerning the card reader report is null and void as it offended the provisions of Section 49 of the Electoral Act which deals on the process of accreditation in an election.
The APC witnesses who came as experts all declined before the tribunal that they were not experts. According to the tribunal, the so called experts did not show how they came about their findings
Consequently, the tribunal resolved that Governor Udom scored the highest number of valid votes cast and ruled that the experts called by the petitioners are not experts as they denied being so, “therefore, they cannot express opinion as ordinary witnesses as the Evidence Act does not allow such.” According to the Evidence Act, only expert opinions are admissible.
The tribunal also held that voters were disenfranchised in some polling units and that elections were inconclusive in Uyo and Ibesikpo Asutan local government areas.
The tribunal also held that some local government areas did not comply with the provisions of the law and held that 566,436 voters were disenfranchised as against the 890,000 voters in favour of Udom in 18 LGAs.
In its verdict, the tribunal ordered INEC to conduct fresh elections in 18 LGAs in the state, as election only held in in substantial compliance with the Electoral act in 13 LGAs.

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