Chris Ekpenyong, the man who truncated former governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio’s ambition of returning to the Senate for a second term, has vowed to continue with legislative duties, despite a judgement by the Court of Appeal nullifying his election.
The Court of Appeal, Calabar, on Saturday, nullified Mr Ekpenyong’s election as the senator representing Akwa Ibom North West District.
It ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a rerun in one local government area – Essien Udim Local Government Area – within 90 days.
“Today, the Court of Appeal in Calabar nullified my election results in only Essien Udim LGA and order for a rerun within 90 days. I still remain the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District with my certificate of return issued to me by INEC,” Mr Ekpenyong said in a statement on Saturday.
“I will still be going about my routine statutory legislative duties as your senator while preparing for the re-run in Essien Udim.
“There is nothing to worry about because we will still come out victorious in the rerun. I urge everyone to remain calm and courageous in supporting the mandate given to me at the poll,” he said.
INEC has also reacted to the court judgement, saying they have been vindicated by it.
“The Court re-affirmed as valid and preserved the elections as declared by the Commission in 9 out of the 10 LGAs that make up Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District. It, however, ordered a rerun of the Senatorial election within 90 days in Essien Udim LGA ONLY, where the Commission had decried the massive rigging and manipulations that culminated in the dubious award of 61,329 votes to Senator Akpabio alone in the LGA, intended to upturn the results of the other 9 LGAs,” the INEC spokesperson in Akwa Ibom state, Don Etukudo, said in a statement.
INEC also said thugs loyal to Mr Akapbio were on “rampage” in Essien Udim on Election Day.
“They snatched and stuffed ballot boxes, foreclosed the use of SCRs, brutalised INEC ad hoc personnel and prevented voters from exercising their franchise.
“The brigandage got to a climax when Senator Akpabio personally led the thugs to overrun INEC office in the LGA. Staff were held hostage for hours, TVC Television news crew and even foreign observers were assaulted while they fretfully doctored election results,” the election commission said.
INEC said details of the rerun would be announced later.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party had welcomed the judgement of the court which the party said has “proven that widespread irregularities occurred in Essien Udim Local Government Area”.
“We are preparing for the election. And we are expecting Senator Akpabio’s resignation (as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs) so that he can come for the election,” Ini Emembong, the PDP spokesperson in Akwa Ibom state, told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Akpabio was a candidate of the All Progressives Congress, while Mr Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom, was the PDP flagbearer.