The Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar, Cross River State, has declared that Senator Bassey Albert was duly elected as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district, otherwise referred to as Uyo senatorial district, ahead of the 2015 general election.
Delivering judgment on Thursday, the Appeal Court overturned the judgment of the Federal High Court in Uyo, saying that Albert who is the appellant won the PDP primary election which held in December 2014.
The Federal High Court presided by Justice Fatun Riman, had February this year asked Albert to vacate his seat as representative of Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district, and be replaced by Mr Bassey Etim, whom the trial court declared the winner of the party’s primary election for the senatorial election.
The trial court had declared that Etim was wrongly substituted by the PDP, and replaced by Albert in the list submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The lower court had also ordered Albert to refund all salaries and entitlements paid to him as representative of Akwa Ibom North East in the senate. The High Court had also directed the INEC to issue a certificate of return to Etim as the elected representive of the senatorial district.
Not satisfied with the judgment of the lower Court, Albert went to the Court of Appeal in Calabar, asking it to set aside the judgemental.
Delivering judgment on the appeal, the Presiding Judge, Justice S. J. Adah, with Justices Iheme Nwosu and J. O. K. Oyewole, declared that the appellant was the actual winner of the primary election, based on evidence before the court. Justice Adah said Etim, lacked evidence to support his claim that he and not Albert won the primary election.
Commenting on the judgement of the Appeal Court, counsel to Etim, Mr. Mba Okweni, SAN, said his client would take his quest for justice in the matter to the Supreme Court.
“They have nullified the judgment of the Federal High Court which declared Bassey Etim as the actual winner of the PDP primaries that was conducted on the 7thday of December 2014, and then that Albert was properly the candidate of the party.
“Incidentally, Albert is still sitting in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, so he will continue until we test it further and know what the position of the Supreme Court will be. Sincerely within me, I feel that the judgment should be tested further until the Supreme Court makes a pronouncement one way or the other 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. We believe strongly that if things continue the way they are going, impunity in our political parties would continue.
A situation where elections were properly conducted, and because somebody has the strength and government behind him, they sit down in government house and fill another result and remove the name of the winner cannot be allowed to remain like that. So, we feel that until the Supreme Court, which is the apex court and final court in the land, review the evidence and take a position on it, the matter has not yet been laid to rest. We thank the Justices of the Court of Appeal for being able to come up with the decision early enough,” Okweni said.
Counsel to Albert, Oba Folaho Ojibara, in his reaction to the judgement said they had overwhelming evidence that his client was the legitimate winner of the primary election that produced him as candidate of the party for the senatorial election in 2015, which he won convincingly.
“The issues before the 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 these bits of evidences. You must recall that the first respondent here Bassey Etim was the plaintiff at the lower court and law requires that he who has asked must prove and he was the one coming to court saying that he won the primaries and unfortunately for him, he had nothing to support his claims and that is what their Lordships of the Court of Appeal hammered on very strongly. Their Lordships were guided by their records and they looked at the avalanche of documents that the appellant presented in his matter.
You must also remember that the appellant was a defendant, and so the burden of was not on him, but he came to court, before the Federal High Court in Uyo and presented documents after documents, facts after facts, witnesses after witnesses, all to establish the incontrovertible fact that he won the primaries that led to the general election, which he also won. So, their Lordships of the Court of Appeal have affirmed the mandate of the people of that Senatorial District.
“They overturned the decision of the Federal High Court and, in so doing, they held very clearly that the decision of the Federal High Court was perverse because the decision was against the weight of evidence that was before the Federal High Court and that is what we are confronted with today. So it is a celebration for justice and something every Nigerian should be happy about,” he said.
Akwa Ibom State legal adviser of PDP, Godwin Umoh, who also commented on the judgement of the Appeal Court said: “It shows clearly like the Justices of the Supreme Court had said that a political party is supreme. The decision of the party in relation to nomination and primaries, that decision is supreme and final. And we as a party had nominated Bassey Albert and we showed by credible evidence. I thank the court for doing a wonderful job. They were meticulous.”