An Abuja High Court has given an order, restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from issuing a certificate of return to Chris Ekpenyong on the just concluded election for Akwa Ibom North-West District.
INEC had declared Mr Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom, winner of the election, against the incumbent senator, Godswill Akpabio.
According to the result announced by the returning officer, Peter Oban, a professor, Mr Akpabio scored 83,158 votes, while Mr Ekpenyong scored 118,215 votes.
Before the announcement of the election result, Mr Akpabio had petitioned INEC, alleging that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mike Igini, was “considering reversing the announced cancellation of result from Obot Akara”.
Mr Akpabio’s opponent, Mr Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is from Obot Akara.
“It is the law that a pronouncement on a result has been made, only a court of law can reverse such decision. An attempt to reverse same is total illegality,” Mr Akpabio said in the petition, dated February 23, and signed by his brother, Ibanga Akpabio, who was the APC senatorial agent in the election.
The Abuja court on Friday gave the ex parte order restraining INEC from issuing a certificate of return to Mr Ekpenyong, following an application brought before it by Mr Akpabio.
INEC is the respondent in the matter.
“Leave is hereby granted to the applicant to apply for judicial review of the issuance of a writ of mandamus, prohibition, injunction, and other declaratory reliefs against the respondent.
“Leave so granted shall operate as stay of further action by the respondent and particularly further action in respect of issuance of certificate of return to any candidate in respect of the seat of the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District on the account of the election held on the 23 February, 2019,” the court stated in its order.
“Additionally, I direct that parties shall first address me on jurisdiction on the next adjourned date,” the order further stated.
The court was presided over by Justice Valentine Ashi.
March 8 has been fixed for the hearing of the substantive application.
Mr Akpabio was represented by S. I. Ameh.
Although INEC is yet to react to the order, the norm in the past was for aggrieved losers of an election to approach an election petition tribunal. set up by the Supreme Court.
Although they have been set up, none of the tribunals across the country have commenced sitting.