Appeal court fixes October 22 for hearing on Akwa Ibom guber tussle

Godswill Akpabio

The plaintiff says the process that saw Mr. Akpabio emerge as governor was flawed.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Monday fixed October 22, 2013 for the hearing of an appeal against the candidacy of Godswill Akpabio who contested the Akwa Ibom governorship election in 2011 on the platform of the PDP.

Justice Dauda Yahaya, who led two other justices, blamed the court’s decision not to hear the appeal, as earlier scheduled, on the parties’ failure to conclude the filing of their processes.

A PDP governorship aspirant in the 2011 election in the state, Frank Okon, had filed the appeal at the Court of Appeal, after the High Court had earlier dismissed his application challenging Mr. Akpabio’s candidacy in the elections.

The court had on April 25 granted Mr. Akpabio an extension of time to file his brief of argument.

The court said the decision to fix the hearing for October would afford Mr. Akpabio sufficient time to respond to the appeal, which also joined the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

At the resumed hearing, Mr. Yahaya and the other panelists held that the matter would not proceed because some of the respondents had not completed the filing of their arguments.

“In the last sitting, the court granted an application for extension of time to allow the respondents file their brief of arguments. However, we observe that the order was not fully complied with. We shall give another grace to all the parties to turn in their arguments.

“In the circumstance, the matter is adjourned to October 22 for definite hearing of the appeal,” he said.

The appellant is seeking an order of the court to set aside the September 14, 2012 decision of the Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by Justice Abdul Kafarati to dismiss his suit on account of lack of “locus standi” to commence the action.

Mr. Kafarati said the plaintiff’s claim that he was the authentic candidate of the party was not known to law, adding that the Electoral Act and the constitution of the party empowered the party to conduct primaries to nominate its candidates for elections.

The judge held that the provision had made it difficult to obtain the nomination of party slots from the court of law, pointing out that the court was convinced of the process that brought Mr. Akpabio as PDP candidate for the 2011 governorship election.

The court had previously validated the PDP primaries held on January 15, 2011, despite allegations that it was not held in compliance of provisions of the PDP’s constitutions and election guidelines.

Mr. Okon had, in the suit, urged the court to declare him as the candidate of the party, and nullify all acts, tasks and functions purportedly performed during and after the January 15 primaries.

The plaintiff further sought an order compelling PDP to comply with Section 87 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 and Article 17 of PDP Constitution.

According to him, the election contravened the 1999 Constitution, the PDP Constitution and the guidelines for the PDP governorship election as well as the Electoral Act. The plaintiff said his fundamental human right was breached given that he was not allowed 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.

(NAN)


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