Contrary to claims by embattled Kogi East Senator, Attai Aidoko, that he remains the rightful occupant of the Kogi East senatorial seat, court documents indicate the seat was declared vacant.
Shortly after the Abuja Division of the Appeal Court on Monday dismissed Mr. Adoko’s Appeal, requesting the determination of three issues from the lower court, the senator reacted to media reports which interpreted the court ruling to mean that the seat had become vacant.
In his reaction, Mr. Aidoko described the reports as laughable and misinforming. He further claimed that nothing was said regarding the supposed occupant of the seat during Tuesday’s ruling.
Copies of the said judgement obtained exclusively by PREMIUM TIMES, however, indicate that by the virtue of Monday’s ruling, the Kogi East senatorial seat remains without an occupant, until a decision of the Federal High Court is made, as directed by the Supreme Court on June 16, 2017.
The Appeal Court in a unanimous judgement on Monday condemned the decision of Mr. Aidoko to return to the appellate court seeking its interpretation on a matter that had been resolved by the Supreme Court.
A three-member panel of judges led by Abdul Aboki described as ‘reckless and bizarre’ the application brought by Mr. Aidoko, after the June 16 Supreme Court judgement.
The appellate court ruled that following the decision of the Supreme Court, its earlier judgement was no longer valid. It ordered the senator to pay N1 million compensation to the contender to the seat, Isaac Alfa.
“The earlier judgement which went on appeal to the Supreme Court was no longer valid, in view of the facts that all courts below are bound to follow the decisions and order (s) of the Supreme Court.
“This application lacks merit. It fails and is accordingly dismissed. N1, 000, 000. 00 (One million naira) cost is awarded against the applicant in favour of the respondent,” the court ruled.
It was based on that December 2016 appeal court ruling that Mr. Aidoko was sworn in as senator in January this year. Therefore, with the same appeal court now saying that ruling “was no longer valid,” the controversial senator has no basis to claim legitimacy to the seat.
The appellate court on Monday also affirmed the Federal High Court’s interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling which overturned all pronouncements on the rightful occupants of the seat, pending the federal high court’s analysis of evidences in the matter.
Monday’s decision of the Appeal Court was a fallout of various court decisions on the controversial seat, as previously decided by the Federal High Court in Abuja, presided over by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba in May, 2016.
Ruling on an application filed by Mr. Alfa, the trial court had decided that Mr. Alfa was the authentic occupant for the Kogi East senatorial seat.
Dissatisfied with the judgement, Mr. Aidoko approached the Appeal Court, challenging the jurisdiction of the lower court to have entertained the matter in the first place.
Mr. Aidoko further argued that Mr. Dimgba was wrong to have decided on such an issue after accessing only originating summons, without looking into evidences from parties in the matter.
In its ruling, the Appeal Court in December 2016 agreed with Mr. Aidoko’s submission that the lower court should have first analysed the evidences before reaching its conclusion.
Subsequently, the appellate court annulled the decision of the lower court but failed to refer the matter back to the federal high court for reassessment based on evidences. Rather, the court pronounced Mr. Aidoko as the rightful occupant of the seat.
Dissatisfied with that decision, Mr. Alfa proceeded to the Supreme Court.
In its decision, the Supreme Court agreed with the judgement of the Appeal Court, that the matter ought to have been first analysed at the lower court on the basis of evidences from parties. The apex court therefore ordered a fresh start of the matter, in effect annulling all decisions earlier taken on the case.
When the case restarted at the lower court, now presided by another judge, Binta Nyako, Mr. Aidoko requested the leave of the FHC to refer some issues to the appeal court for interpretation from the lower court.
The main objective of the three issues intended for interpretation was to prove that the lower court, according to Mr. Adoko’s lawyers, lacked jurisdiction on the matter.
They contended that the Supreme Court only decided on the need for the lower court to have accessed evidences before reaching its conclusion, but that the apex court did not set aside the appeal court decision, affirming Mr Aidoko as the authentic occupier of the seat.
In a ruling delivered on Mr. Aidoko’s request at the FHC, Mrs. Nyako interpreted the Supreme Court’s decision to mean that the matter was taken back to the stage it was, before it came to the Federal High Court in 2016, where no authentic occupant of the seat was known.
Before granting the applicant leave to proceed to the appeal court, Mrs. Nyako noted the previous decisions taken by both high courts and concluded that the overall implication is that the case has become ‘none-existent’.
“Having read the position of parties and having read the decisions of both the court of appeal and the Supreme Court: to my understanding the court of appeal set aside the judgement of the trial court. Then ordered that a fresh certificate be issued to the first respondent. This was the decision that went to the Supreme Court.
“Now to my mind, the effect of setting aside means to annul. It goes back to the beginning, as if it did not exist,” Mrs. Nyako said.
Citing the above interpretation at the appeal court, another member of the appeal court panel, Emmanuel Akomaye said the decision of Mr. Aidoko to return to the appellate court, despite the annulment of the entire case at the lower courts, amounts to a “great disdain and contempt for the Supreme Court.”
“To my mind the applicant has exhibited great disdain and contempt for the Supreme Court decision aforesaid. All he is out to do is to circumvent and render the judgement and frustrate the hearing de-novo ordered by the Supreme Court.
“The lower court has ably stated the decision of the Supreme Court. This court as well as parties are duty bound to obey and ensure the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s decision aforesaid. This court will not be party to the intransigence of the applicant to truncate the decision of the Supreme Court,” Mr. Akomaye said.
The appeal court dismissed the request for interpretation of the three issues brought before it, stressing that, “It is not the duty of this court to decide unnecessary hypothetical or academic constitutional issues.”
Although Mr. Aidoko on Tuesday apparently deceived senators in the upper chamber when he addressed them on the matter, with the appeal court judgement now officially available, Senate President Bukola Saraki may have to act to formally ask Mr. Aidoko to stop referring to himself as a serving senator until the High Court decides.
Messrs. Aidoko and Alfa have battled for the Kogi East Senatorial seat since December 2014.
While Mr. Alfa claims he won the primaries conducted by their party, the Peoples Democratic Party, and was issued certificate of return by INEC after winning the main election, Mr. Aidoko insists he is the rightful occupant of the controversial seat, partly because his name was submitted to INEC, after the said primaries by the PDP as the party’s flag-bearer for the election.