The Cross River State Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Calabar has declared Governor Ben Ayade authentic winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election, and therefore dismissed the petition filled by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), John Owan Enoh.
Senator Enoh had argued that he was validly nominated by his party but wrongfully excluded by the second respondent, INEC from the said election, saying Governor Ayade was erroneously declared winner of the said election by the electoral umpire.
Delivering judgment, Josiah Majebi, tribunal chairman petitioner was not wrongfully excluded by the second respondent, INEC, as contained in the petition, adding that grievances of the petitioner were pre-election matters which his tribunal has no jurisdiction to entertainment.
“Any disputes within a given political party which stands election before actual election such as nomination or withdrawal or exclusion are pre-election issues. Our mandates don’t cover them. Therefore, such are ineffective grounds. We, therefore, strike them and such others out for incompetence.
“Having painstakingly and profoundly looked over the submissions and considered several legal authorities, we hereby reject entire evidences given by the petitioner, and dismiss the petition as lacking in merit.
“We resolved the matter in favour of the first respondent. Consequently, we here declared that Prof Benedict Ayade was duly elected on 9 March 2019 as the governor of Cross River State,” Justice Majebi said.
In his reaction, Governor Ayade said he has dedicating the victory to God and the people of Cross River state.
“As I did when I won the governorship election of March 9, by dedicating my victory to God, the great people of Cross River state and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) family, let me once again rededicate today’s tribunal verdict which explicitly reinforced the will of the people to them.
“I had no doubt that I would emerge victorious at the tribunal. I have never lost faith or confidence in our judicial system. I was very confident that the tribunal would be diligent and upright in determining the petitions brought before it and it did just that today and I am happy, Cross Riverians are happy and I am sure that even the petitioners will be happy that the tribunal has acquitted itself,” the Governor, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary/Senior Special Adviser Media, Christian Ita, said.
Mr Andrew Essien, lead counsel to Sen Enoh, could not comment on the judgment, but the state chairman of APC, Sir John Ochala, described the judgment as unfortunate adding that the party would decide on the next line of action.