The Government of Cross River has dedicated the victory of Gov. Bassey Otu at the governorship election petition tribunal on Tuesday to the people of the state.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Erasmus Ekpang, stated this while reacting to the judgement, which affirmed the election of Otu, who is of the APC.
Ekpang noted that while APC remained the vehicle that brought the government to office, the party was working with the mandate that was given to it by the people.
He said that the judgment did not come to him as a surprise, stressing that there was never a case before the tribunal in the first instance.
Ekpang said, “I wasn’t surprised with the eventual outcome of the petition as the issues raised were all pre-election matters.
“We are indeed glad that it has come to an end and we want to ultimately dedicate this victory to the people who gave us the mandate in the first instance.
“Having done with the judgment, I now want to call on our friends from the other side to join hands with the governor to move the state to the next level.
“The state belongs to us all and not the party that we represent. They should feel free to come forward if they have good ideas to develop Cross River.”
The tribunal, led by Justice Oken Inneh, affirmed Otu’s victory by dismissing all the reliefs sought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Prof. Sandy Onor.
Onor and the PDP had challenged Otu’s victory in the March 18 governorship election on the ground that Otu and his deputy, Mr John Odey, were not qualified to contest the poll.
According to the judgment delivered by the panel, the petition was dismissed for lack of merit.
The PDP candidate challenged the declaration of Otu by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the March 18 poll in the South-South state.
The results announced by INEC put Otu’s tally of votes at 258,619, while Onor reportedly polled 179,636.
The APC candidate won in 15 local government areas of 18 LGAs declared by the commission in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
Vanguard reports that all the three Judges, Justice Okenya Inneh, Chairman, Justice M Omar, member and Justice O Olatawusu took time to read their judgement in the four hour long ruling that took place at High Court 10, Moore Road on Calabar.
Each of the judges held that on the grounds by the Petitioner, that Otu and Odey were not qualified to contest the election because Odey who ran on the same ticket with Otu as deputy was still a member of PDP when he was picked to run as deputy governor on the platform of APC, the judges held that selection. of a candidate to contest an election is the domestic affairs of a party and nobody not pry into the affairs of a party by ‘looking through the window”since he is not a mrmbet of the party.
“The issue of qualification or sponsorship of a candidate is the domestic affairs of a party so no one can decide what the party should do when he is not a member of that party”. The judges ruled.
On the grounds by PDP that Otu did not possess the prerequisite qualifications to contest the election, the Tribunal held that he submitted the Independent National Electoral Commission Form EC9 which indicated his academic qualifications and any interested party ought to have gone to a High Court within fourteen days to challenge such information.
“If there is a misinformation, misconception, or falsification of information on Form EC9, an interested party ought to go to a High Court to institute a matter within fourteen days of the supply of information which was not done.by the Petitioner, therefore this is struck out”
The Tribunal held that the governor attended a primary school in Calabar, Duke Town Secondary School and University of Calabar and if there are discrepancies on the dates of the certificates, those are not intentional but errors which do not render the certificate void.
The petition also raised the issue of Odey lying on oath by swearing that he has not sworn allegiance to the United Kingdom stating that this disqualifies him from contesting for elective position in Nigeria.