By Patrick Obia
The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Calabar, Cross River State has dismissed the two separate petitions filed by Senator John Owan-Enoh, the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, laying claims to have been the candidate of the same party.
The two petitions, suit number EPT/CAL/Gov/01/2019 and suit number EPT/CAL/Gov/02/2019 were against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as first respondent and Governor Ben Ayade of the People’s Democratic Party PDP as 2nd respondent.
Chairman of the 3-man Tribunal, Justice Josiah Majebi in the unanimous judgment read by him on behalf of the panel in the suit number EPT/CAL/Gov/01/2019, filed by Senator John Owan-Enoh stated: “We hold that the petition fails and is dismissed for being incompetent, or for lack of merit.”
He noted that the petitioner came before the tribunal on two grounds, namely, one, “that the was non-compliance with the provisions of the electoral ACT 2010 as amended” and two “that, he was unlawfully excluded from participation.
“The petitioner based his petition on non-compliance with the Electoral laws; in the circumstance, we hold that the 1st and 2nd grounds of the petition are irreconcilable and diametrically opposed to each other.”
Sitting relevant authorities of related and decided cases, the tribunal noted that a petitioner cannot complain of having been unlawfully excluded from contesting the election and at the same time complain that the election was invalid by reasons of non-compliance with the provisions of the electoral Act.
The judgment further noted that the petitioner failed to established or state how non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act has substantially affected the result of the election.
“Non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act without more is not sufficient to invalidate an election. We, therefore, strikeout ground one of the petition for incompetence.
“The instant petition is also founded on the valid nomination of the petitioner and his alleged unlawful exclusion by the Independent National Electoral Commission. We hold that the petitioner failed to discharge the burden of prove that he was unlawfully excluded from contesting the election to the office of the governor of Cross River State in the elections held on the 9th of March 2019. The petitioner contested the election and at the same time complained of exclusion,” the tribunal ruled.
Running mate to the governorship candidate of the APC in the election Ntufam Ekpo Okon told The Nation Newspaper correspondent on phone: “We believe that Justice has not been done. We are going to sit down with our lawyers to review the judgment and determine the next line of action.”
The State Chairman of the PDP, who was in court to witness the judgment, said: “We welcome the judgment. The governor, Prof. Ben Ayade has always called on Cross Riverians to come to join hands with him to move the state forward. This is our message to the opposition.”
The petition number EPT/CAL/Gov/02/2019, filed by Pastor Usani Uguru Usani was equally dismissed and struck out as an abuse of judicial process.
Usani, former Minister of Niger Delta had claimed that he was the rightful candidate of APC for the governorship election in Cross River State but the national chairman of the APC refused to submit his name to INEC as the candidate.
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