Abuja High Court , has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to stay action on the issuance of a Certificate of Return, to Chris Ekpenyong on the just concluded election for Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district.
Justice Valentine Ashi made the order on Friday, following an application with suit No ‘FCT/HC/M/2680/19’, with Senator Godswill Akpabio as the applicant. She restrained the respondent in the suit – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – from issuing any certificate, pending the determination of the suit before the court.
Mr Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom, winner of the election, against the incumbent senator, Godswill Akpabio.
According to the result announced by the returning officer, Peter Oban, a professor, Mr Akpabio scored 83,158 votes, while Mr Ekpenyong scored 118,215 votes.
Before the announcement of the election result, Mr Akpabio had petitioned INEC, alleging that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mike Igini, was “considering reversing the announced cancellation of result from Obot Akara”.
Mr Akpabio’s opponent, Mr Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is from Obot Akara.
In an exparte motion dated February 28, 2019, with an affidavit deposed to by one Daniel Idoko and filed on March 1, Senator Akpabio prayed the court for leave to apply for “judicial review for the issuance of writ of Mandamus, prohibition, injunction, and other declaratory reliefs” against INEC.
Granting the order, Justice Ashi said there was “some merit, especially in regards to the need to keep things in status quo.” “Leave is hereby granted to the applicant to apply for judicial review for the issuance of a writ of mandamus prohibition injunction and other declaratory reliefs against the respondent,” she held.
The judge further ordered a stay of issuance of a certificate of return to any candidate in respect of the seat as sought by the applicant She adjourned the case till March 8 for hearing and directed the parties to first address the court on jurisdiction on the next adjourned date.
INEC is yet to react to the order, the norm in the past was for aggrieved losers of an election to approach an election petition tribunal. set up by the Supreme Court.