We the undersigned elders of Akwa Ibom State, having reviewed the judgments of all the election petition tribunals and those of the Court of Appeal on the petitions and appeals that arose from the elections of 28 March 2015 and 11 April 2015 in the state, hereby express our very serious concern over the clear cases of miscarriage of justice in nearly all of the decided cases so far.
Our concerns are based on self-evident facts that if the election petitions were determined on their merits, the judicial decisions would have been consistent with the demands of justice and even common sense. In specific terms, the following are our grounds of concern:
1. THE WORLD CANNOT BE WRONG IN CONDEMNING THE AKWA IBOM POLLS AS FRAUDUDLENT
In their written reports and many media interviews on the elections held on the days cited above, the European Union, the American Government, the African Union and local election monitors all condemned the conduct of the polls in Akwa Ibom and Rivers states. In a unanimous verdict, the representatives of the international community that monitored the elections stated categorically that elections as known to Nigerian laws did not take place in both Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.
Local security reports on the elections in both states equally stated that the said elections in both states were substantially marred by irregularities and violence. Most of the judicial decisions on the Akwa Ibom election petitions and appeals ignored the position of the international community on the polls. But the world cannot be wrong. The judges and justices that handled the election petitions and appeals in Rivers State agreed with the international community. Why is the Akwa Ibom case different?
2. NON-SUBSTANTIAL COMPLIANCE WITH AND BREACH OF THE ELECTORAL ACT AND THE CONSTITUTION
We have noted with disbelief how most of the rulings of the various tribunals and the Court of Appeal were clearly inconsistent with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution. In all the election cases so far decided, a serious case of over voting was established. For instance, during the governorship election petition, evidence was led before the tribunal to establish a case of over voting where 1,222,836 votes were recorded by Akwa Ibom State INEC as against INEC headquarters Card Reader data which show that only 437,128 voters were accredited to cast ballot in the governorship election. The voters’ register also showed a lower figure of 448, 307 as having been accredited to vote in the election. It is just not possible for 437,128 voters, going by the Card reader figure (or 448, 307, according to the voters’ register) to cast 1,222,836 votes. Section 53 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, provides for the cancellation of elections where there are incidents of over voting. By failing to cancel the entire governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, the election petition tribunal had ignored the clear provision of the law for the conduct of the election. Akwa Ibom people demand explanation.
We want to highlight another instance of breach of the provision of the Electoral Act in the adjudication of the election petitions in Akwa Ibom State with respect to over voting. In Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District (Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District), where both the election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal upheld the election of the Senate Minority Leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio, the number of votes cast in the election, which stood at 450,000, according to INEC records, far exceeded the number of registered voters in the entire senatorial district, which stand at 205,000 in INEC record. Yet the courts overlooked this clear case of over voting, again contrary to section 53 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended.
The case of former governor Godswill Akpabio has more bewildering dimension. The courts equally overlooked the unambiguous fact that Senator Akpabio was not presented by his party for election in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District, where he was declared elected, and rationalised that the nomination of Akpabio for election in a different senatorial district other than where he was declared winner was a minor error that was erased, in the curious view of the courts, by the unfathomable argument that the voters knew whom they voted for even if he was not validly nominated for the election. We invite the world to look at the contrary decision in a similar case in Taraba State, where it was decided that the PDP candidate for the election, who is now the state governor, could not be returned elected because he was not validly nominated by his party due to a similar irregularity in his nomination process. Votes for the PDP candidate in the election were regarded as wasted votes because he was not validly nominated. Why was the law applied differently in the case of Akwa Ibom North Senatorial District?
3. THE JUDICIARY HAS MADE NIGERIA AN OBJECT OF RIDICULE BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ON AKWA IBOM POLLS
The blatant denial of justice by the Judiciary to Akwa Ibom voters and the APC candidates who contested the elections has presented Nigeria before the international community as a country of strong men, where only the rich and powerful get justice. But all internationally respected nations operate on the basis of the rule of law, where all manner of men get equal treatment at the temple of justice. Nigeria is thus reduced by some of its judges to a laughing stock before the international community. In fact, in other jurisdictions, the election would have been cancelled outright by the election umpire. But in the Akwa Ibom case, not only did the election umpire announce the results of the fraudulent polls, the tribunal also failed to declare that the PDP governorship candidate was not validly returned, even when it held that he did not meet the requirements of the law to be returned elected.
A combination of these failures in upholding the law in the Akwa Ibom election cases has truly reduced Nigeria’s standing in the comity of democratic nations.
4. WE DEMAND PROBE OF THE UNJUST AND UNFAIR JUDGMENTS ON THE AKWA IBOM ELECTION CASES
In the light of the foregoing, we the undersigned Concerned Elders of Akwa Ibom State, hereby respectfully call on the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, President Muhammadu Buhari to institute a judicial commission of enquiry into the adjudication of all the election petitions and appeals that resulted from the elections held in Akwa Ibom State on 28 March 2015 and 11 April 2015. The good people of Akwa Ibom State demand to know why the Judiciary treated election cases emanating from their state completely differently from similar cases in Rivers and Taraba states. The President is requested to investigate the allegations published by Sahara Reporters that Appeal Court Justices who handled the election cases from Akwa Ibom were bribed by the PDP-controlled government in the state. The allegations by Sahara Reporters, which detailed how mind-boggling amounts of cash were hauled at night to Abuja through the Akwa Ibom State Airport for the purposes of bribing the Appeal Court Justices, should not be swept under the carpet. The question of corruption of the judicial system in the adjudication of the Akwa Ibom election petition cases appears to be self-evident.
Last night the AIT carried a story obviously sponsored by the Akwa Ibom State government that the PDP had won 12 House of Assembly cases in the Court of Appeal, whereas those cases have not been decided yet. Though the cases were billed to be decided yesterday, the court did not take them. It is apparent that the story of the PDP ‘victories’ were aired on TV based on pre-arrangement, suggesting that the PDP had already seen the judgments. We believe that a judicial commission of inquiry into these allegations of corruption is the least that President Buhari can do to give our people a sense of justice and fair play, and restore their faith in the democratic process.
Otuekong Jackson Udoh,
Leader, Uyo Elders Forum
Obong Rita Akpan,
Former Minister of the Federal Republic
Dr Ime Okopido,
Former Minister of the Federal Republic
Professor Okon Eminue,
Former Chairman, Governing Council of Akwa Ibom State University.