By The Evangelist News Edition, Friday September 1, 2023. Admin
The National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Uyo, on Thursday, dismissed the petition filed by the Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for Eket/Esit Eket/Onna/Ibeno Federal Constituency in the 2023 elections, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh, against the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Hon. Okpolupm Etteh.
Eyiboh’s petition was a one-ground petition on eligibility which was premised on allegations of certificate forgery, and inconsistencies in the official names of Etteh.
The judgment highlighted several points, noting that the respondents had filed their reply outside the stipulated 21 days timeframe, which rendered it incompetent and statute barred.
On the other hand, the tribunal held that the petition itself was valid since it had been filed within the required time frame.
Interestingly, the tribunal found that the evidence presented by the petitioner did not convincingly prove the forgery allegations beyond reasonable doubt, even though the grounds for the petition were considered competent.
The three-man panel of judges, led by Justice Kudirat Jose of the Lagos State High Court, cited various legal authorities to highlight the inability of the petitioner to prove his claims beyond reasonable doubt.
The tribunal noted that only the presentation of the alleged “forged copy of the certificates” and the “real one” by the issuing institution could proof the case.
The court held that communication with the issuing institution like West African Examinations Council (WAEC), could have been crucial in determining the validity of the forgery allegations, as such evidence or efforts were not pursued by the petitioner.
Additionally, the court stated that the petitioner did not approach the WAEC, or subpoenaed them to testify or present valid documents at the tribunal.
The tribunal further declared that the allegations of forgery were mere speculation and hearsay, since the petitioner did not visit the school that purportedly issued the certificate, which was later revealed to be unregistered and non existent.
Consequently, the tribunal dismissed the petition on the grounds of the petitioner’s failure to prove his case.
Meanwhile, all replies from the respondents were struck out as well, with the 2nd respondent’s reply being declared out of time and incompetent due to its excessive page length.
Justice Jose presided over the case, with Jumbo Udom Esq and others serving as counsel to the petitioner.
The 1st respondent, Mr. Etteh, was represented by Ekpenyong Ntekim Esq and others, while Utibe Nwoko and others appeared as counsel for the 2nd respondent, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Esther Ebubenna Nwadike represented the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).