By Okon Bassey in Uyo
PDP asks members to remain calm
After more than one year of legal battle, the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, has nullified the election of Senator Bassey Albert Akpan in the 2015 senatorial election for Uyo senatorial district (Akwa Ibom North-east) over alleged electoral fraud.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Akpan who was presented as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of that election.
A former member of the House of Representatives for the Uyo Federal Constituency, Bassey Etim, armed with facts, had approached the court to challenge the wrongful substitution of his name as the winner of the primary for Akwa Ibom North-East senatorial district in 2014 by INEC with that of Akpan.
Delivering judgment in the legal tussle yesterday in a pre-election matter brought before the court, the presiding judge, Justice Ritman Fatun, held that Akpan was not duly elected in the PDP primary held on December 7, 2014 as he was not eligible to stand for the election.
In the judgment, which lasted for about two hours, the judge held that “Akpan was a candidate for the governorship election but was only smuggled into the Akwa Ibom North-East senatorial district at the last minute.”
Justice Fatun, accordingly ordered INEC to issue a fresh certificate of return to Bassey Etim as the duly elected candidate for the Akwa Ibom North-East senatorial district while the certificate earlier wrongfully issued to Akpan be forfeited.
Also, the judge directed that the leadership of the National Assembly should swear in Etim as the senator for the senatorial district as well as awarded N200.000 as fine in favour of the plaintiff against the defendants.
The judge further ordered for the refund of all monies illegally accrued to Akpan to the federal government.
Reacting to the judgment, the lead counsel to the plaintiff, Taiwo Abe, described it as lucid and educative, declaring that, “it will go a long way to enrich the jurisprudence of the country.”
He lauded the judge for his exceptional courage and sincerity in the handling of the case which he described as a victory for democracy.
He stressed: “I am happy for this victory, it a victory for democracy and I assure you that no court of law will fault this judgment.”
On his part, Offiong Offiong, the lawyer to Akpan, said he would brief his client appropriately on the judgement before taking the next line of action.
He said: “I cannot advise my client through the media, I will advise him professionally on the matter when I meet him.”
Meanwhile the state chapter of PDP, has called on members of the party in the senatorial district in particular and the state in general to remain calm, saying the judgment was shocking and dramatic.
The state Chairman of the party, Obong Paul Ekpo who spoke through the state Publicity Secretary of the party, Ini Ememobong, said as law-abiding legal entity, the teeming supporters of the party should not panic as the party would continue to defend the truth concerning the nomination of Akpan.
The legal department of the party, he said, had been directed to immediately file a notice of appeal in the Court of Appeal, as the party continues to study the judgment of the lower court.