Akpabio withdraws court case challenging election defeat

Senator Akpabio addressing reporters at the Akwa Ibom International Airport, Uyo
Senator Akpabio addressing reporters at the Akwa Ibom International Airport, Uyo

Former Senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, has withdrawn a case he filed challenging his Senate reelection loss.

Mr Akpabio’s lawyer, Sunday Ameh, announced the withdrawal in court in Abuja on Friday. He did not give reasons for his decision.

But a media consultant to the Senator, Wole Arisekola, said in an SMS sent to PREMIUM TIMES that the case was withdrawn to enable the politician to seek redress at the election tribunal.

“He does not want to be accused of abuse of court process for pursuing the same case before two different courts,” Mr Arisekola said.

Mr Akpabio filed the case despite Nigeria’s legal provision that Senatorial election disputes should be decided in the first instance by an election tribunal. Lawyers say conventional courts lack jurisdiction to hear such cases.

Regardless, the judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court granted Mr Akpabio’s request to restrain parties involved in the case.

On Friday, the judge, Valentine Ashi, denied restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from issuing a certificate of return to the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Chris Ekpenyong, in the February 23 elections.

Mr Ashi said the media publications suggesting that he gave such an order were “overstretching” the facts of the matter treated by his court.

According to Mr Ashi, the nature of the application brought by Mr Akpabio should have been clarified by the media or the lawyers who provided information to the media.

The judge explained that Mr Akpabio’s application contained a request for an order of mandamus restraining parties and allowing Mr Akpabio to judicially review the processes that resulted in the declaration of Mr Ekpenyong as the winner of the senatorial election.

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The request for permission to review the process was granted by the court. It was that request that was later interpreted to mean that the court granted a restraining order.

Mr Ashi said the facts of the matter were twisted.

Mr Akpabio’s lawyer informed the court on Friday that his client had resolved to withdraw the application for judicial review.

The lawyer representing the INEC, Tanimu Inuwa, told journalists that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the application since it is an election matter.

“When a person requests for the enforcement of his right through an order of mandamus, what it means is that once that request is granted, parties are to stay proceedings until that right has been enforced. That’s what it means,” Mr Inuwa explained.

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 Ekpenyong is from Obot Akara.

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