Almost eight months after the Akwa Ibom Division of the Federal High Court declared Mr Bassey Etim the person who should represent the Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki has yet to swear him in.
Rather, the Senate President has allowed Mr Bassey Albert Akpan to retain the seat illegally. This is an affront to the rule of law.
The argument that because Akpan had filed an appeal, the Senate should wait for the decision of the Court of Appeal before determining what to do does not represent the state of the law. Unless, there is a stay of execution of the judgment of the Federal High Court, the judgment must be obeyed immediately. As at press time, neither the high court nor the Court of Appeal had issued a stay of execution of the judgment.
Moreso, the Senate under Saraki had obeyed a similar judgement. There must be therefore other reasons preventing Saraki from inaugurating Etim as a senator. May be he does not like his face. But he does not have to. He is only required to abide by the oath of his offie.
While giving judgment in a pre-election matter, the high court on February 27, 2017, sacked Akpan from the National Assembly after it found that he was not the valid and bonafide candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which won the 2015 general election for the Akwa Ibom North East senatorial seat.
The court also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return of Akpan and issue same to Etim.
The court also ordered Akpan to refund to the coffers of the National Assembly all he had benefitted at the National Assembly including salaries and allowances since he was wrongly inaugurated.
Both Akpan and Etim had claimed to be the winners of the primary poll for the 2015 senatorial election into the Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District.
Etim had approached the court with an originating summons claiming that he was robbed of his electoral victory at the primary election conducted by the PDP.
But because both of them claimed to be the winners of the primary poll conducted by the PDP for the Akwa Ibom North East District, the high court held that originating summons would not allow both parties present evidence.
The court therefore ordered that the suit be converted from originating summons to writ of summons so that they could each party could call witnesses to give oral and tender documentary evidence.
After the court heard both parties out, the trial judge, Justice F.O Riman, in a considered judgment held that Etim was the valid and bonafide candidate of the party for the senatorial seat but that Akpan had wrongly and illegally represented the district in the National Assembly.
INEC had since complied with the court order as it issued the certificate of return to Etim. The Senate President should take a cue from that. INEC could have claimed that it wanted to wait for the appeal process to be exhausted.
As stated earlier, the Senate under Saraki had obeyed similar court judgments on pre-election disputes. A case in point was the dispute between Senator Atai Aidoko and Senator Air Marshall Isaac Alfa who engaged each other in a legal battle over who between them was the authentic candidate of the PDP for the Kogi North East Senatorial District.
Both Aidoko and Alfa had claimed before a federal high court in Abuja to be the winner of the primary poll held by the PDP on December 7, 2014 for the Kogi North East Senatorial District at Idah Town Hall. The matter therefore went to court as a pre-election dispute which Air Marshal Alfa won at the trial high court, the basis upon which he was admitted into the Senate.
But soon as Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court gave judgment in favour of Alfa, Aidoko went on appeal as did Akpan in the instant case.
The appeal neither stopped INEC from recognising Alfa nor the Senate from wearing him in based on the judgment of the Abuja Federal High Court.
While Alfa was in the Senate, the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal heard the appeal filed by Aidoko against the high court judgment.
In the unanimous verdict by a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal (Justices Dr Justice Hussein Mukhtar, Justice T. O Awotoye and Justice Frederick O. Oho), the court specifically held: â€œIn the final analysis, this appeal succeeds; the entire issues are resolved in favour of the appellant (Aidoko) and the judgment of the lower court delivered on 18-4-2016 by Federal High Court, sitting at Abuja by Dr N. Dimgba, J. is hereby set aside.
Although Alfa immediately went to the registry of the Supreme Court to challenge the verdict of the Court of Appeal by filing a notice of appeal in addition to filing a motion for stay of execution, INEC, again, promptly obeyed the judgment of the Court of Appeal by issuing a fresh certificate of return to Aidoko while the Senate also swore him notwithstanding the pendency of the appeal by Alfa at the apex court.