By Daniel Edu
In a decisive ruling, the Court of Appeal in Lagos has upheld the triumph of Governor Umo Eno in the Akwa Ibom State governorship election. The dismissal of the petition filed by Action Alliance (AA) and Accord Party (AP) against Governor Eno came on Friday.
Led by Justice Tani Hassan, the three-member panel declared the tribunal’s findings as valid and unassailable. Hassan stated, “I resolve the issue against the appellant and uphold the judgment of the tribunal. I dismiss the petition as lacking in merit.”
Action Alliance and its governorship candidate, Akpan Udolt, had argued that the party’s name was omitted from the ballot paper, urging the court to annul the election. However, Eno and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) urged the court to disregard AA’s submission.
Paul Usoro (SAN), former President of the Nigerian Bar Association and counsel for PDP and the governor, argued that the appellants lacked the locus standi to initiate the petition, citing Section 133(1) of the Electoral Act 2022. Usoro emphasized that the section clearly states that “an election petition may be presented by…a candidate in an election; or…a political party which participated in the election.”
The court had earlier reserved judgment in a case filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) against Governor Eno. The APC contended that Eno’s conviction by an Upper Area Court in Abuja constituted a constitutional disqualification for a sitting governor.
Hassan Liman, counsel to APC, argued for the disqualification of the Young Peoples Party (YPP) candidate, who came second in the election, citing a forged certificate presented to INEC. Liman urged the court to nullify the votes and declare the second runner-up (APC) as the duly elected governor of Akwa Ibom State.
In response, counsel to PDP affirmed that the petitioner’s witnesses unanimously confirmed the setting aside of the sentence by the same court. He argued that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to overturn a court judgment and urged the Appeal Court to dismiss the appeal.
The three-member panel reserved judgment, with the date to be communicated to the involved parties.