– SAYS FMR LAWMAKER UNFIT TO BE RESPONDENT IN INCONCLUSIVE POLLS
The Independent National Electoral Commission has filed a motion at the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, informing the court that theMarch 9, 2019 election in Essien Udim State Constituency was inchoate as no one was declared winner of the said election.
In a motion dated the 30th day of June, 2019 and filed last week, the electoral body through its solicitors of Iroagalachi & Co., Plot A1, Ahmadu Bello Way, Kaduna, informed the Tribunal that Nse Effiong Ntuen listed as the 1st Respondent in Petition No. EPT/AKS/SHA/12/2019 was not declared by the Commission as the winner of the said election.
The application noted that to activate the jurisdiction of an election petition tribunal, there must be evidence to show to the court that a declaration was indeed made and a candidate returned as winner of the election.
It noted that in this case, there is no evidence that any one was declared winner and returned.
INEC furthered that no evidence of return was attached to the petition filed by the petitioners neither did Nse Ntuen attach any evidence of return to the reply filed by him.
Having failed to do so, the Commission through its lawyers argued that the tribunal was not clothed with the requisite jurisdiction to proceed with the matter, and was therefore urged to decline jurisdiction over the matter which involved an incomplete elections.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria who is currently handling several petitions at the tribunal has observed that bringing Nse Ntuen to the tribunal when he was not declared the winner of the election is like dressing him in borrowed robes. That having not been declared by the electoral umpire as the person who won the election, Nse Ntuen lacked the legal capacity to be described as the 1st Respondent in an election petition.
The Senior Advocate noted that he appreciates the situation which the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate Esse Gerald Umoh found themselves in the wake of the unfortunate events that characterized the Essien Udim State Constituency election of 9th March, 2019.
That having been confronted with such situation, certain steps needed to be taken one of which was the decision to file the petition at the tribunal.
He however said that since Nse Ntuen was not declared the winner of the election, there is need for the petitioners to reconsider their petition with a view to allowing INEC the opportunity of making a clear statement on the election and returning to the field for completion of the exercise.
Other lawyers have also expressed concerns over the petition and have condemned the violence that greeted the Essien Udim State Constituency election of 9th March, 2019 and majority of such lawyers are of the opinion that in the circumstance, it has become imperative for the Independent Electoral Commission to lead the way and make a categorical statement on the controversial Essien Udim State Constituency election.
When contacted, Ekemini Udim, lead counsel to Esse Gerald Umoh and the Peoples Democratic Party, informed our correspondent that he is currently discussing with his clients on the best way forward and that once a decision is reached, he will make his views known.