The Akwa Ibom National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal Wednesday night dismissed the petition by Senator Godswill Akpabio of the All Progressives Congress(APC) challenging the election of Senator Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) to represent Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District .
However, Ekpenyong’s declaration by the tribunal as winner of February 23rd election did not come without some drama and confusion by supporters of Senator Akpabio, now minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
One of the judges in the three man panel had upheld the petition of Senator Akpabio and announced the nullification of the victory of Dr Chris Ekpenyong as Senator representing Akwa Ibom North West(Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District.
Contrary to the judgement of the other two judges, Justice S. H Tahir whose ruling was delivered by 11.45 PM, said the petitioners Senator Akpabio and the APC, had no need to present polling unit agents to prove their victory since they were not challenging what transpired at the units.
Relying on the case between ANDREW v. INEC, the court ruled that the burden of proof for proving substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act to ground a nullification of the election is on the petitioner and held that the Petitioner’s evidence was too weak in all ramifications to prove non-compliance, not to mention substantial non-compliance, which is the only ground for nullification of the elections.
The court in the end, in a majority Judgement of two justices dismissed the petition and upheld the declaration of Senator Christopher Ekpenyong as the winner of the February 23, 2019 elections.
Few buses of uniformed APC supporters who adorned adjoining streets around Wellington Bassey Way after being restricted by heavy security agents from accessing the tribunal venue started beating drums to celebrate when they could not apparently understand the import of the judgement.
But their celebration was short lived when PDP youths led by the chairman of the State Youth Caucus and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Youth Matters, Aniefiok Iwa Udofia led over eight hundred youths and a victory March from Wellington Bassey Way through Dominic Utuk Avenue, to the residence of the victorious Senator Chris Ekpenyong, where the celebration lasted until the early hours of Thursday morning.