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Election Tribunal delivers five more judgments, dismisses all APC petitions in Cross River



Election Tribunal delivers five more judgments, dismisses all APC petitions in Cross River

Calabar’s Election Petition Tribunal has ruled on five petitions submitted by All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates in Cross River State against Peoples Democratic Party candidates, each of whom was contesting the results of a seat in the National Assembly in 2019. 

Election Tribunal delivers five more judgments, dismisses all APC petitions in Cross River

On Thursday, Justice A. A. Babawale, presiding over a panel of three that included Justices S. B. Shuaibu and M. C. Okoh, ruled against the petitions filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in favor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). 

The petitions were in suits no EPT/CAL/S/09/2019 between Wabilly Nyiam of APC versus Senator Rose Oko of the PDP (Cross River North Senatorial district); EPT/CAL/HR/06/2019 Jude Ngaji of APC versus Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe of the PDP, (Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency); EPT/CAL/HR/07/2019 Mkpanam Obo-Bassey Ekpo of the APC versus Hon. Daniel Asuquo of the PDP, (Akamkpa/Biase Federal constituency). 

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Two other cases were also filed: EPT/CAL/HR/08/2019, between Akibe Ekpenyong of the APC and Rt. Hon. Eta Mbora and another (Odukpani/Calabar Municipal Federal Constituency), and EPT/CAL/HR/10/2019, between Dominic Aqua-Edem of the APC and Hon. Essien Ayi, (Bakassi/Calabar South/Akpabuyo Federal Constituency). 

Judge A. A. Babawale, who serves as chairman of the tribunal, read the first three verdicts (EPT/CAL/S/09/2019, EPT/CAL/HR/06/2019, and EPT/CAL/HR/10/2019). 

The judgments in cases EPT/CAL/HR/07/2019 and EPT/CAL/HR/08/2019 were read by Judge S.B. Shuaibu and Justice M. C. Okoh, respectively. 

To justify its decision to uphold the PDP candidates’ election, the tribunal argued that the APC is to responsible for its current predicament because it was the party’s own internal conflict, which has still to be resolved, that led to the Federal High Judgment, which remains valid and was obeyed by INEC. 

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The judges noted that the petitioners’ central complaint was that they were unlawfully excluded from participating in the elections held on February 23 due to the actions of the second respondent, the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC. This complaint was echoed in all of the judgments, which addressed similar issues. 

The tribunal ruled that INEC’s decision to delist APC candidates on the eve of the elections was not unconstitutional, as the petitioners had argued, because the federal high court’s judgment in suit number FHC/C/73/2018 was still in effect and must be respected. 

However, the second panel of judges reached slightly different conclusions from the first on the tribunal’s authority to hear the petitioner’s central exclusion claim. The first panel, which met the Wednesday before, argued that the petitioners’ request for exclusion was a pre-election case and therefore outside the election tribunal’s purview; the second panel, however, agreed with the petitioner that the election tribunal did have jurisdiction to entertain their case because it was a post-election matter. In spite of this, all five of the APC’s challenges were thrown out on the grounds that INEC had acted legitimately in complying with a valid court order when it excluded the party’s candidates from the Cross River State election. 

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After the delisting and elections had already taken place, the Appellate court vacated the federal high court’s ruling, the group claimed. The head of the tribunal stressed once more that APC should institute discipline within its ranks and take responsibility for its loss in Cross River State rather than pointing fingers at INEC.

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