Updated: Court dismisses petition against Akpabio’s election

Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom

Court dismisses petition against Governor Akpabio’s election

Petitioner alleges miscarriage of justice, gives notice to proceed on appeal.

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Friday dismissed the suit against Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom seeking to invalidate his nomination as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, flag bearer in the April 2011 gubernatorial primaries in the state.

The suit, filed by Frank Okon, one of the aspirants in the primaries, sought the decision of the court to nullify the re-run primaries held January 15, 2011. Mr. Okon said his fundamental human right was breached as he was not given the mandatory seven days notice ahead of the exercise, which paved way for Mr. Akpabio to be returned as the party’s flag bearer.

Mr. Okon had also contested the conduct and outcome of the primaries, claiming that the PDP committed fraud by forging the signature of its former National Chairman, Okwesilieze Nwodo, on the result sheet submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), despite that Mr. Nwodo was removed from office by a court in Enugu more than 72 hours before the primaries.

After considering the applications and arguments by all the parties, including the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the PDP, Justice Abdul Kafarati in a judgment that lasted over 45 minutes held that the plaintiff, having accepted that that he never participated in the re-run primary elections, was unknown in law to possess the legal capacity to challenge its outcome.

Mr. Kafarati based his ruling on the provisions of Section 87 (7) of the Electoral Act, which defines an aspirant in an election as someone who contested a primary election conducted by a political party for the purpose of nominating a candidate.

He said since the plaintiff did not participate in the rescheduled January 15, 2011 primary election conducted by the PDP, he lacked the locus standi to challenge both its conduct and outcome.

“It is clear that the plaintiff was not a candidate or aspirant in the re-run primary election conducted on 15th January, 2011 by the Second respondent (PDP),” Mr. Kafarati said, citing the ruling by the Supreme Court early this year in the case filed by Timipreye Silva, the former governor of Bayelsa state, against the PDP.

“The main complaint of the applicant were not against the conduct of the primary election, but on the actions preceding the conduct of the election, which this court has no jurisdiction to entertain, because they are the internal affairs and domestic rights of the PDP,” the court ruled.

Consequently, the court dismissed the case for lacking in merit and want of jurisdiction. The court also awarded N50 thousand each, to the first and second respondents (Akpabioand PDP respectively), and N100 thousand to the third respondent (INEC), against the plaintiff as legal costs.

While Mr. Akpabio’s legal team, led by Dominic Okon, hailed the ruling as profound, Mr. Okon’s legal team

rejected it, alleging an “obvious miscarriage of justice” against its client. They have already given an indication to proceed on appeal.

After hearing the final briefs by all parties on May 3, Mr. Kafarati adjourned judgment to July 12.

The judgment was postponed indefinitely, until Friday, when it was announced on July 12 that the judge travelled out of the country for undisclosed reasons.

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