The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Friday, August 18, ordered the Akwa Ibom State Election Petition Tribunal to relist the petition filed by the ADC Governorship Candidate, Arc. Ezekiel Nya-Etok, and hear the case in its merit.
Recall that the Tribunal had on the 12th of June dismissed Nya-Etok’s petition on the grounds that the petitioner had only paid N1 million security-for-cost deposit; instead of N11 million.
Arc Nya-Etok then proceeded to the Appeal Court in Calabar. As part of his Appeal, he pleaded for speedy hearing of the case as, being an election petition case, time was of essence.
After over a month of not having as much as a date for the consideration of his case, he felt compelled, abcs subsequently approached the headquarters of the Appeal Court in Abuja. A transfer of the case was made to Abuja. Within days, hearing was fixed for his case, and the subsequent prompt judgement.
The Appeal Court, however, affirmed that the petitioner ought to have paid only N5 million, as against N11million.
Delivering judgement in an appeal brought by Nya-Etok, Hon. Justice M. L. Shuaibu of the Appeal Court, determined that non-payment of security deposit should not result in dismissal of cases; rather the hearing of such cases could be suspended pending when payment is made. Other members of the three-man panel were: Justice H. A. Abiru and Justice Abdul-Azeez Waziri.
‘’This is a victory for justice and Akwa Ibom people. My fight is not personal, but to interrogate and sanitize our electoral process by getting to the bottom of what happened during the last election. The results that were announced by INEC were fraudulent. They did not reflect the actual votes that we scored’’, an elated Nya-Etok said after the judgment was read.
However, the Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN, representing Mr. Umo Eno, the respondent, has indicated his intention to appeal the judgement to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the Appeal Court judgement came more than 60 days from the day the Tribunal gave judgement.
In the election results announced by INEC, the ADC governorship candidate was ‘awarded’ not up to 2,000 votes. But the candidate believes that he actually scored over 60,000 votes based on the evidence he has at the counting of ballots as presented to him by his ‘votes defenders’ at the various polling units, which will be evident at the examination of the election materials used in conducting the election.
To ensure this, he, knowing where he was heading for, had earlier obtained judgement of the Tribunal that compelled INEC to make “all election materials” available and accessible to him.
Said Nya-Etok, ‘’The whole frauds happened at the polling units after the election at the writing of results after the counting of ballots; and that is why no election result was pasted at the polling unit, contrary to what the electoral law says.
The big parties, in collusion with our agents and the electoral officials, simply deducted my votes and added the deducted figures to the votes of the purchasers before entering the results in the Result Sheets. I am sure that other smaller parties might have suffered the same fate. How can I score either zero, dash or nil in over 1,500 polling units out of the about 4,000 polling units in the state?
“It was so ridiculous that though my party had adopted Mr Peter Obi, ADC, my party still scored over 4,000 votes as our committed party members did not want to take any chances! Where are those my ‘fanatical’ followers that defied every inducements even in the face of biting hunger? To me, their votes are sacred. It is a clear case of recording fictitious results’’.
Nya-Etok has had a tortuous search for justice and his story speaks to why Nigerians have launched a campaign tagged ‘’All Eyes on the Judiciary’’. The campaign seeks to trigger mass vigilance on the activities of the various Election Petition Tribunals across the country.
Soon after he filed his case at the Tribunal, it was clear to Nya-Etok that he had to be vigilant.
He recalls: ‘’On the first day of the hearing of my case, the first statement the Tribunal Chairman, even before lawyer being introduced, proceeded to ask whether I had paid all my fees.
“To this, my lawyer responded in the affirmative. The Chairman could not take his words so he stalled proceedings and called for the Tribunal Secretary who also answered in the affirmative, but the Chairman was not satisfied and he probed further, asking the Secretary to tender evidence of my payment’’.
And when the Secretary confirmed that the ADC candidate had paid N1 million, the judge summarily dismissed the case, despite pleadings and entreaties from the petitioner’s lawyer who had told the Tribunal they might have acted in wrong presumption, and that his client was ready to instantly make up the difference.
‘’The judge’s action was strange’’, said a lawyer who witnessed the proceedings.
With the judgement of the Appeal Court, Nya-Etok is set to prove his case at the Tribunal. The ADC candidate is asking the Tribunal to determine his true scores at the election and to determine the eligibility of the other candidates, given their respective legal statuses with respect to issues of CONVICTION, and DOUBLE NOMINATION.