By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Valentine Ashi of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja on Friday, said contrary to media reports, he did not issue any order restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from issuing Certificate of Return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Chris Ekpenyong in the February 23 general elections.
INEC had declared Ekpenyong as winner of the election, against the incumbent Senator, Godswill Akpabio.
According to the result announced by the returning officer, Prof. Peter Oban, Akpabio scored 83,158 votes as against 118,215 scored by Ekpeyong.
The incumbent, Akpabio however in an application filed on February 28 prayed the court for, “An order granting leave to him to apply for a judicial review for the issuance of a writ ofMandamus, prohibition, injunction and other declarative reliefs sought against the respondent (INEC).”
Akpabio in the suit No: FCT/HC/M/2680/19, also prayed the court to direct the respondent to stay further action “particularly further action in respect of issuance of certificate of return to any candidate in respect of the seat of senator representing Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial district on the account of election held on the 23rd February, 2019.”
In a short ruling Justice Ashi, held that the case of Akpabio is meritorious and that there is need to keep things in status quo.
“Leave is hereby granted to the applicant to apply for judicial review for the issuance of a writ of Mandamus, prohibition, injunction and other declaratory reliefs against the respondent.
“Leave so granted shall operate as stay of further action by the respondent andparticularly further action in respect of issuance of Certificate of Return to any candidate in respect of the seat of senator representing Akwa Ibom North-west Senatorial District on the account of election held on February 23, 2019,” Justice Ashi held.
While adjourning the matter till March 8 for hearing of the substantive suit, the judge however directed that parties must first address him on the issue of jurisdiction on the next sitting.
However at the resumed hearing, Justice Ashi said the media publication suggesting that he gave such an order were overstretching the facts of the matter treated by his court.
He explained that the nature of the
application brought by Akpabio should have been clarified by the media reports or the lawyers who provided information to the
According to him, Akpabio’s
application contained a request for an order of mandamus restraining parties
and allowing him (Akpabia) to judicially review the processes that resulted in
the declaration of Mr. Ekpenyong as winner of the senatorial election.
The judge explained that it was the
request for permission to review the process which was granted by the court
that was later interpreted to mean that the court granted a restraining order.
Mr. Ashi expressed reservations for
the reports, saying that the facts of the matter were twisted.
Meanwhile, there was a new
development to the issue as Akpabio’s lawyer, Sunday Ameh, yesterday informed the court that his client had resolved
to withdraw the application for judicial review.
He however did not advance any reason
for the withdrawal.
But speaking with journalists outside
the court, the lawyer representing INEC, Tanimu Inuwa, said the court lacks
jurisdiction to entertain the application since it is an election matter.