Akpabio withdraws suit challenging victory of Chris Ekpenyong

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The former Senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, has withdrawn a case he filed challenging his Senate reelection loss.

Akpabio’s lawyer, Mr. Sunday Ameh, announced the withdrawal in court in Abuja on Friday.

He did not give reasons for his decision.

But Akpabio’s media consultant, Mr. Wole Arisekola said the case was withdrawn to enable the former senate minority leader to seek redress at the election tribunal.

“He does not want to be accused of abuse of court process for pursuing the same case before two different courts,” said Arisekola.

Akpabio filed the case despite Nigeria’s legal provision that Senatorial election disputes should be decided in the first instance by an election tribunal. Lawyers say conventional courts lack jurisdiction to hear such cases.

Regardless, the judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court granted Akpabio’s request to restrain parties involved in the case.

On Friday, the judge, Valentine Ashi, denied restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from issuing a certificate of return to the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Chris Ekpenyong, in the February 23 elections.

Ashi said the media publications suggesting that he gave such an order were “overstretching” the facts of the matter treated by his court.

According to him, the nature of the application brought by Akpabio should have been clarified by the media or the lawyers who provided information to the media.

The judge explained that Akpabio’s application contained a request for an order of mandamus restraining parties and allowing Akpabio to judicially review the processes that resulted in the declaration of Ekpenyong as the winner of the senatorial election.

The request for permission to review the process was granted by the court. It was that request that was later interpreted to mean that the court granted a restraining order.

Ashi said the facts of the matter were twisted.

Akpabio’s lawyer informed the court on Friday that his client had resolved to withdraw the application for judicial review.

The lawyer representing the INEC, Mr. Tanimu Inuwa, told journalists that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the application since it is an election matter.

“When a person requests for the enforcement of his right through an order of mandamus, what it means is that once that request is granted, parties are to stay proceedings until that right has been enforced. That’s what it means,” Mr. Inuwa explained.

INEC had declared Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom, winner of the election, against the incumbent senator, Akpabio.

According to the result announced by the returning officer, Prof. Peter Oban, Akpabio scored 83,158 votes, while Mr. Ekpenyong scored 118,215 votes.

Speaking on the matter on Friday, Ekpenyong urged Akpabio “to demonstrate the good spirit of sportsmanship by willingly accepting defeat in good faith instead of overheating the polity by giving the people false impression of rigging during the contest”.

He recalled: “In 2007, even when he rigged the elections and won, I, as one of the contestants accepted defeat and congratulated him.

“In 2011, I had done everything to go for senate but he tricked me to step down for another person, even when I and the former minister of petroleum, Atuekong Don Etiebet, had knelt down to beg then President Goodluck Jonathan, to give him (Akpabio) soft landing to go for a second term.

“When I did all of these, I was conscious of the fact that there must be one governor at a time and that was his own time as designed by God.

“So this current mandate for the people of Ikot Ekpene senatorial district has also been ordained by God for me to lead the people of my zone and to show them leadership direction from the Red Chambers in the next four years.

“We are a highly Republican people. We don’t have what they called Dynasty in other places.

“In Annang ethnic nationality, leadership must evolve for the dividends of democracy to spread across all the 10 local government areas that constitute the senatorial district.

“Therefore, I am assuring the people that I will run for only one term of impactful and purposeful leadership that will ensure every facets of the Ikot Ekpene senatorial district is touched by serious transformation and socio-economic development.”

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