The Elections Transparency Group (ETG) has described the abandonment of the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sittings in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State by Justice Sheriff Hafizu Tahir, after giving the minority judgment in the Sen. Godswill Akpabio’s petition, challenging his defeat in the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial election as suspicious and strange, calling on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate the rationale behind his action.
Late on Wednesday, the tribunal Chairman, Justice W. O. Akanbi had delivered a majority judgment, upholding the election of Senator Chris Ekpeyong as senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District while Justice Tahir delivered a dissenting judgment, declaring Akpabio as winner.
Curiously, Justice Tahir stayed away from the tribunal sittings of yesterday where judgments in other pending petitions were delivered.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, by its Convener, Dr. Kazeem Adekunle, the ETG said there were insinuations that Justice Tahir was induced financially to sway the judgment in favour of Senator Akpabio and that his failure to get the tribunal chairman to toe his line made him to abscond from his duty out of frustration.
ETG said it is on record that only the tribunal chairman and Justice Ebetu were present at the sitting of the tribunal late yesterday, where judgment was delivered in the petition filed by Emmanuel Akpan of the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the election of Nsikak Ekong of the Peoples Democratic Party as House of Representatives member representing Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency.
The questions NJC must have to ask Justice Tahir are; where was he yesterday? Why did he fail to attend the tribunal sitting on Thursday, September 12, 2019? Why did he walk out of the tribunal after delivering his minority judgment on Wednesday, September 11, 2019? Is it the practice that a member of a tribunal will walk out after delivering a minority judgment and won’t be on seat when the majority judgment is being read?
Most importantly, the NJC must ask Justice Tahir why he allegedly tried to convince another member of the tribunal to support his position on Senator Akpabio’s petition so that his own judgment will be the majority ruling.
Is it true that Justice Tahir assure Senator Akpabio that he had ‘settled’ his two other colleagues but his plot failed due to the integrity and professionalism of the two justices?