Senate: Akpabio pulls out of Akwa Ibom North-West rerun

• Asks APC to send replacement to INEC

Former Akwa Ibom state governor and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has declined interest in a rerun election for Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial zone.

In a letter he addressed to the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole and dated December 2, 2019, the Minority Leader in the 8th Senate cited his recent national assignment as a Minister for his decision not to participate in the rerun elections.

A  three-man panel led by Justice S. Tanko Hussein, of the Court of Appeal had last November declared as invalid, the declaration of Christopher Ekpenyong as the winner of the February 23 National Assembly election and the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar ordered a rerun in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State where Senator Godswill Akpabio lost to Senator Christopher Ekpenyong.

The Court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct a fresh election in Essien Udim Local Government Area within 90 days.

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It held that “there was proof of irregularities and non-compliance with the Electoral Act” in the conduct of the election in the affected local government area and so, no one should have been declared the winner.

Akpabio in his letter appealed to the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole led National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress, to write the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in line with Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010, and submit a replacement to run in his place.

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs also requested the leadership of the APC to demand the redeployment of the Akwa Ibom Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Mr Mike Igini ahead of the rerun.

His letter read in part: “I wish to recall that I was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District Election held on the 23rd day of February 2019. “Upon the declaration of Christopher Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the purported winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I challenged same at the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

“The Tribunal In a split decision by a majority of two to one (Honourable Justice W. O. Akanbi and Honourable Justice 0. D. Etubu) dismissed our Petition, while in a dissenting judgment delivered by Honourable Justice Hahz S. Tahlr, the petition was adjudged proven and all the reliefs sought were granted.

“Being dissatisfied with the decision of the majority judgment and upon the erudite points of law and conclusion contained in the minority judgment, we appealed to the Court of Appeal, Calabar Judicial Division which in a unanimous decision delivered on the 9th day of November 2019, allowed our appeal and set aside the Judgment of the Lower Tribunal.”

“I have taken into consideration the critical national assignment bestowed on me by Mr President which will be of immense importance to Nigerians and in particular the indigenes of the Niger Delta region and have resolved to remain as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to further discharge my contributions and services to our great fatherland.

“It is on the premise of the foregoing and particularly in line with the provisions of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) that I want to formally and voluntarily withdraw my candidature as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the forthcoming Court ordered Re-run Election for the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District.

“It will not be inappropriate in the circumstance and pursuant to Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) for the party to immediately communicate this withdrawal to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and forward to her the name of another candidate of the party to replace me at the Court ordered Rerun Election for the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District.

“I want to seize this opportunity to thank our formidable party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), its leadership at the state and national levels for availing me the party platform and the immeasurable support I received throughout the period of the election and beyond.

“Mr Chairman, may I advise that the National Working Committee of our party should reiterate our earlier plea to the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (lNEC) to redeploy Mr Mike Igini (the Resident Electoral Commissioner) from Akwa Ibom State if a free and transparent re-run exercise is to be guaranteed.”

Speaking with Tribune Online, INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Publicity and Voter Education, Festus Okoye said the Commission was yet to receive any letter from the APC national Secretariat on Senator Akpabio decision not to participate in the rerun fixed for January 2020.

He said: “We aren’t aware that Senator Akpabio has said he would not be participating in the scheduled rerun. We haven’t received any letter from the APC. When we get the letter, INEC would act in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act.”

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