The Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Calabar has declared Prof. Ben Ayade, as the winner of the March 9, 2019 Cross River state governorship election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
This followed the dismissal of the petition by Senator John Owan-Enoh of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who was the gubernatorial candidate of the party.
Senator Owan-Enoh had argued that he was validly nominated by his party but wrongfully excluded by the second respondent, INEC from the said election.
Senator Owan-Enoh had petitioned the tribunal seeking it to declare the first respondent, Prof. Ayade as having been wrongfully declared winner of the said election by INEC and therefore should nullify it and call for a fresh election.
Delivering judgement on the petition number: EPT/CAL/Gov/1/2019 today, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Josiah Majebi, said the first and second grounds of the petition were irreconcilable and mutually exclusive.
He said in the first place, the petitioner had failed to seek redress within legally specified 14 days allowed for complaints.
The tribunal strongly disagreed with the petitioner that he was wrongfully excluded by the second respondent, INEC, stressing that much of the grievances expressed in the petitioner were pre-election matters which his tribunal has no jurisdiction to entertainment.
Such matters include nomination, withdrawal, exclusion from contesting election, the judge noted.
“Any dispute within a given political party which stands election before actual election such as nomination or withdrawal or exclusion are pre-election issues. Our mandates don’t cover them. Therefore, such are ineffective grounds. We therefore strike them and such others out for incompetence,” Justice Majebi said.
The tribunal also held that there were multiplicity of litigations by interested parties of the APC regarding the governorship election which complicated the petition.
The judge said they have carefully considered the applications, written addresses and counter responses by the respondents, and have overruled many views of the petitioner as lacking in merit and gross abuse of court processes. He said the petition is academic, hypothetical, and frivolous.
“The petitioner’s allegation that he was excluded from the election; yet he scored valid votes of 131,161 makes his petition contradictory.
“Having painstakingly and profoundly looked over the submissions and considered several legal authorities, we hereby reject the entire evidences given by the petitioner, and dismiss the petition as lacking in merit. We resolved the matter in favour of the first respondent.
“Consequently, we here declared that Prof Benedict Ayade was duly elected on March 9, 2019 as the governor of Cross River State”, Justice Majebi said.