The Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar, Cross River State, on Thursday overturned the judgment of the Federal High Court in Uyo and declared Senator Bassey Albert of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the party’s primary election that held in December 2014.
Contention over the Akwa Ibom north east senatorial district seat had lingered on since Mr. Albert’s major contender, Bassey Etim, took him to court over the authenticity of his candidature.
Prominent in the allegation raised against Mr. Albert was that he contested in the primaries of the governorship election in the State on the platform of the PDP; however on losing out, he quickly switched over to the senatorial ticket where he never took part in the primaries.
After the election in 2015, both of them had claimed to be the winners of the primary for the 2015 senatorial election into the Akwa Ibom north east Senatorial District.
But Mr. Albert was sworn in, prompting Mr. Etim’s decision to head to the High Court.
HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT
In February 2017, the Federal High court sitting in Uyo sacked Mr. Albert.
Justice Fatun Riman who delivered the ruling nullified the primary process that produced Mr. Akpan as the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party for the election which saw him to the National Assembly.
The court also ordered Mr. Albert to refund all salaries and entitlements he collected as a Senator in the National Assembly.
Justice Riman, while delivering the court’s ruling, stated that his challenger, Mr. Etim was the authentic winner of the primary.
The court therefore ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately withdraw the certificate of return issued to Mr. Albert, and issue same to Mr. Etim from Uruan Local Government.
The judge also ordered the National Assembly to swear in Mr. Etim as Senator representing Uyo Senatorial District.
SENATE DISOBEYS COURT ORDER
Despite the court order, the Senate under the leadership of Bukola Saraki has since failed to swear in Mr. Etim.
Mr. Albert, who currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, has been laying claim to the seat since the Uyo Federal High Court ruled in favour of Mr. Etim.
Calling the attention of the Senate to this, a group, Human Right Lawyers and Civil Society Alliance, in June asked the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, to immediately swear-in Mr. Etim, in obedience to court order.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Ojo Gabriel, the Director of the group, urged Saraki to swear-in Etim.
However, despite this and several other calls, Mr. Albert remains a member of the red chamber.
PDP WITHDRAWS APPEAL
In September, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) requested the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar to dismiss its appeal against a judgment of the Federal High Court, Uyo which sacked Mr. Albert from the National Assembly and declared Mr. Bassey Etim as replacement.
The party said the judgment of the Uyo Federal High Court which sacked Mr. Albert from the Senate for not being its authentic candidate for the 2015 Akwa Ibom senatorial election was not against its interest, hence, unnecessary and ought not to have been filed in the first place.
APPEAL COURT JUDGEMENT
The Court of Appeal in Calabar, on Thursday, upheld the December 14 party primaries election that produced Mr. Albert.
In a unanimous decision that lasted for over two hours, the judges overturned the ruling of the Federal High Court, Uyo that declared Bassey Etim as winner.
ETIM HEADS TO SUPREME COURT
Counsel to Mr. Etim, Mba Okweni (SAN), however, said they will challenge the decision of the Appeal court at the Supreme Court.
“Sincerely, I feel that the judgment should be tested further until the Supreme Court makes a pronouncement on the issue and some of the points that have been raised, which we feel are not properly placed. Then, we can have a final statement on it,” he said after the Appeal Court judgement on Thursday.
“We believe strongly that if things continue the way they are going, impunity in our political parties would continue,” he said.
However, counsel to Mr. Albert, Folaho Ojibara, said they had overwhelming evidence that his client was the legitimate winner of the primary election that eventually led to the 2015 general elections, which he won.
He said: “The issues before the justices of the Court of Appeal were very clearly narrowed down. The kind of evidence that the appellant presented before the lower court was so overwhelming and the Justices of the Court of Appeal latched on to the evidences.”