The Pan Akwa Ibom Democratic Vanguard, an advocacy group committed to the advancement and promotion of democracy, rule of law and good governance in Akwa Ibom state has raised alarm over alleged plans by His Excellency Godswill Akpabio (Senate President) in collaboration with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in Akwa Ibom State, working in concert with some high profile judges at the Court of Appeal, to influence the judgement of the Appeal Panel in favour of Governor Umo Eno.
It will be recalled that the Akwa Ibom State Election Petition tribunal had in September delivered judgement and dismissed the petition filed by the governorship Candidate of YPP, Senator Albert and several other candidates of other parties, challenging Governor Umo Eno’s eligibility to contest the March 18th Governorship elections in Akwa Ibom based on his WAEC qualifications and alleged criminal conviction by an Abuja Magistrate court.
In a unanimous Judgement read by chairman of the tribunal, Hon. Justice Adeleye, the court held that the Petition was baseless and lacked merit. Dissatisfied with the Judgement, the Petitioners filed Appeals before the Appeal Panel and judgement has been reserved in the matter accordingly.
In statement made available to us, the pro democracy group disclosed that the Senate President, His Excellency Godswill Akpabio, Governor Umo Eno and PDP in Akwa Ibom State have reached an agreement with the Appeal Panel headed by Justice Ogbuinya to deliver judgement in favour of Gov Umo Eno. This was publicly announced by the senate president where he publicly congratulated Gov Umo Eno for scaling through the court of Appeal even when judgment had not yet been delivered. The group also allege that the Appeal Panel was deliberately constituted by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dongban-Mensem, to affirm the fraudulent judgement earlier delivered by the Election Petition Tribunal in Uyo which had her daughter, Hon. Justice B.M Bassi, as a member of the panel.
The group revealed that Justice Mensem knowingly facilitated the appointment of her daughter as a member of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in the oil rich state and has subsequently commissioned the Appeal Panel in Lagos to confirm the controversial judgement delivered by the Tribunal in favour of Gov. Umo Eno.
They further revealed that the Akwa Ibom Election Petition Tribunal had earlier shown their bias for PDP when they blatantly refused calls by Petitioners to relocate the Tribunal to Abuja or Lagos in the midst of several occurrences of violence and harassment of petitioners by thugs sponsored by the State Government in Akwa Ibom State. They also stated that during the adoption of written addresses in the Petition marked EPT/AKW/GOV/04/2003 brought by ADC Candidate, Nyak Etok against Gov. Umo Eno, the Tribunal Chairman Justice Adeleye openly challenged the Petitioners on why they should query Gov. Umo Eno’s conviction. He pointedly asked, “Are you aware that the said conviction of Umo Eno was set aside?” A statement which the group considered reckless, prejudicial and unprofessional.
“The utterances of the Tribunal chairman was quite shocking and pre-emptive of the eventual outcome of the judgement. As arbiters in the temple of justice, neutrality is the basic minimum expected from a judicial officer. If a judge can be holding brief for a party in a matter in open court, it is left to imagination what may be going on behind the scenes. As we speak, they have now perfected plans to have the court of Appeal affirm the scandalous verdict already ” The Statement reads.
They described the Judiciary as the last hope of the common man and urged that given the place of pride that Akwa Ibom holds in politics and economy of Nigeria, it is of utmost importance that leaders who seek to govern such an important state should be morally upright without any blemish regarding their academic records.