The Supreme Court has confirmed the election of Pastor Umo Eno as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State in last year’s gubernatorial election in the state as it struck out
According to the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Umo Eno on Research and Documentation who monitored the case in Abuja on Thursday, the apex court struck out all three respective appeals filed by Governorship candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr Akanimo Udofia, the New Nigerian People’s Party, NNPP, Sen John Udoedehe and the Young Progressives Party, YPP, Sen Bassey Albert Akpan.
Ndueso said the case was withdrawn by the appellants when the matter was mentioned for hearing.
He said when the appeal filed by John James Udoedehe(NNPP)came up, Mr Liman Hassan, SAN, Counsel to Mr Akanimo Udofia of the APC, told the Court that the crux of their appeal was the eligibility of the 2nd respondent(Pastor Umo Eno) and the 4th respondent based on being convicted before the elections.
“My lordships, the purported verdict upturning the conviction of Pastor Umo Eno by the same Magistrate Court, is not tenable”, Udoedehe’s counsel raised.
“If it is true that the conviction has been set aside, you can’t just come and bring it up again”, the Supreme Court fumed.
But Hassan argued that the conviction ought to have been upturned at a higher court.
“If there is no appeal against the setting aside of the conviction of the 2nd respondent, then you have no reason to introduce it here. You are wasting our time because that is purely an academic issue. Without an appeal, there is no basis to challenge a judgement”, the Court roared.
“It is not every matter you bring here to bother us. Since you couldn’t invite WAEC to disown the certificate you claimed was forged, then stop wasting our time. The tribunal did a good job, we read the judgement and it was a perfect judgement.“
Consequent upon this, Hassan Liman, SAN, counsel to APC & Akanimo Udofia applied to withdraw the appeal.
Following no objection from the other parties, the five-man panel, presided over by Justice Uwani Musa Abba Aji struck out Mr Udofia’s appeal.
Surprisingly, when the second appeal, between Senator Albert Akpan and Gov Umo Eno, came up, Counsel to Sen Bassey Albert, Mr Ahmed Raji, SAN, who was in court, declined to make an appearance hence the appellant was represented in court by Barr Tunde Falola.
The apex court agreed to jointly handle the two cases including that of NNPP candidate Senator John Udoedehe.
“The decision we take on one will be binding on the other case,” the parties were told.
“We have seen your petition and we read your processes. How is your case different from that of APC”, the Supreme Court asked Tunde Falola, appearing for Bassey Albert.
The Court frowned at Bassey Albert’s counsel for repeating the same argument presented by APC’s Akanimo Udofia on the arrangement of names on the WAEC certificate of Pastor Umo Eno and urged him against further waste of the court time.
At this point, Ahmed Raji the senior counsel of the Appellants quickly rose to apologize to the Court and consequently announced the withdrawal of the appeal, with none of the parties objecting.
Senator Bassey Albert had filed his initial petition before the lower tribunal on two main grounds, the purported non-qualification of the 2nd Respondent (Governor Umo Eno), to stand election based on alleged forgery of senior school certificates, as well as not scoring the highest number of lawful votes in the March 18 Governorship elections in Akwa Ibom State.
However, in their appeal Number SC/CV/1230/2023 before the Supreme Court, the YPP governorship candidate failed to appeal against the decision of the tribunal which upheld the overwhelming victory of Pastor Umo Eno in the 2023 governorship elections but focused only on the allegations of forgery and fake certificates.
Gov Umo Eno was represented by Paul Usoro, SAN, Essien Udom, SAN, Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN, and Emmanuel Enoidem, SAN.
INEC was represented by Offiong Offiong, SAN, the PDP legal team was led by Tayo Oyetibo, SAN and Barr. Francis Ekanem represented JJ Udoedehe.
The defeated Governorship candidates had earlier filed petitions, separately, challenging Governor Umo Eno’s election at the Governorship Elections Petition Tribunal in Uyo
In its composite Judgment, comprising the decisions on the preliminary objections as well as on the substantive Petition issues, the Tribunal dismissed the petitions on the merits and based on the preliminary objections of the Respondents.
The Tribunal consequently declared Governor Eno as “eminently qualified to contest the” Election and as “duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the Election.”
Aggrieved by the Tribunal’s Judgment, the appellants appealed to the appellate Court.
The appeal was however thrown out for lacking in competence at the Appeal Court in Lagos judicial division.
Dissatisfied with the lower Court’s judgment, Udoedehe, Akpan, and Udofia went upstairs to the apex court, which finally put an end to all the doubts surrounding the elections.
The Supreme Court had last week, dismissed the appeal by the governorship candidate of the Accord Party, Engr. Emem Coffie and Akpan Abraham of the Action Alliance, after the parties withdrew the appeal.