By: Patrick Titus, Uyo.
Federal High Court sitting in Uyo on Monday nullified the election of Senator Bassey Albert Akpan as a Senator representing Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district of Akwa Ibom state at the National Assembly.
The judgment followed the petition brought before it by Mr. Bassey Etim challenging the irregularities in the process of the state party primaries where Bassey Albert was declared the winner by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In his over two hours judgment, Justice Fatun Riman said that Akpan was not duly elected in the primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party held on December 7, 2014.
He ordered the Independent electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Akpan and awarded N200, 000 costs in favour of the plaintiff Mr. Bassey Etim also of the PDP.
Riman also ordered that Akpan should refund all salaries and allowances earned during his stay in the Senate to the Federal Government.
The presiding judge also in his judgment directed that INEC should issue a fresh certificate of return to Mr. Etim who was the authentic winner in the primary election.
Speaking to journalists after the judgment, the defence counsel’s Offiong Offiong, SAN, said that, he would contest the judgment at the Appeal court after if his client gives him the go ahead to do so.
Also in his reaction, lead counsel to the plaintiff, Taiwo Abe, SAN, described the judgment in favour of his client as a victory for democracy and Dark Age for impunity.
“I am happy with the judgment, it is victory for democracy, and I can assure you no court of law will fault this judgment.
“My client has proved his case and I have no doubt even if they appeal or at the Supreme Court my client will still win, “Abe said.
It would be recalled that, Bassey Etim, a onetime member of the House of Representatives, representing Uyo federal constituency, had approached the court after the 2015 general elections seeking to determine the eligibility of Senator Bassey Albert Akpan to continue to occupy the Akwa Ibom North East senatorial seat in the Red chamber.
His argument was that Akpan did not contest the PDP primary election as senatorial candidate into the Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district
Bassey Etim, had challenged what he called ‘the wrongful substitution of my name, as the winner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary in Uyo Senatorial District a.k.a Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District in 2014 by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with that of Bassey Albert’.
Meanwhile, the state publicity secretary of PDP, Mr. Ini Ememobong in a statement in Uyo said described the nullification as shocking and dramatic.
Ememobong said his party chairman in the state Mr. Paul Ekpo has directed the legal dept of the party to quickly file a notice of appeal at the appeal court while studying judgment of the lower court.
“It is imperative to remind the entire public that this is just the end of round 1 of a 3 round legal encounter and therefore certainly not conclusive in any manner.
“It must be kept in mind that being a pre-election matter, the ultimate destination of this matter is the Supreme Court. There is therefore no cause for alarm or panicky from any quarters.
“We will continue to defend the truth concerning the nomination exercise conducted by our party which produced Sen. Bassey Akpan, as the winner in the presence of all who were in attendance”, Mr. Ememobong stated in the statement.
The statement emphasized that party tickets were won and would continue to be won in the nomination processes conducted by the party and not through the back door.
The statement urged all party faithful to remain calm as the party would seek all legal action to restore the mandate given Akpan in the December 7, 2014 primary election.