Lawan Urged to Bar Illegal Occupant of C’River North Senatorial Seat

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Ugo Aliogo

President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan has been urged to stop the current occupant of the Cross River North senatorial seat, Dr. Stephen Odey from attending plenary on grounds that the apex court has ruled that Hon. Jarigbe Agom is the bona fide and authentic winner of the seat.

In a passionate letter to Lawan, a legal luminary, Mr. Omang Omang argued that “It is obvious that from the Judgments of the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court, Stephen Odey is no longer the Senator Representing Cross River North, in the Senate. It is a known fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has obeyed the judgment of Courts and has issued a Certificate of Return to Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, which automatically invalidates the Certificate of Return earlier issued to Stephen Odey, after the by-election.”

According to Omang, “the fact that the apex court has ruled on who was the authentic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party is incontrovertible. The candidate remains Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, as affirmed by the Supreme Court, which struck out the Appeal filed by Stephen Odey, challenging the decision of the Appeal Court. The appeal was struck out, due to a defective Notice of Appeal, on February 25, 2021.

“We are reminded that Stephen Odey sought to be joined as an interested party to the suit and was joined at the Appeal Court. He went ahead to Appeal the judgment of the Appeal Court to the Supreme Court. He sought some reliefs from the Supreme Court, including his affirmation as the authentic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the December 5, 2020 Senate by-election for Cross River North. The appeal to the Supreme Court by Stephen Odey was incompetent and was struck out. The appeal failed and Stephen Odey now claims, he was not part of the suit. This is an attempt to approbate and reprobate,” he stated.

Omang pointed out that “the man that appealed to the Supreme court was Stephen Odey and not Chief John Alaga. Chief John Alaga was one of the respondents at the Supreme Court. Chief John Alaga lost his case at the Trial Court and Appeal Court. The appellant at the Supreme Court was Stephen Odey and he lost the case to the respondents. On that note, the subsisting verdict of the Trial and Appeal Courts are affirmed and yet to be upturned. It cannot be upturned because the judgment of the Supreme Court is final and infallible. This is the “truth” that is incontrovertible.”

He went on to state that “It is not the duty of the Senate to look at court judgments or interpret court judgments. The Clerk of the Senate is supposed to verify the Certificate of Return issued by INEC and document the elected senator, in line with the Certificate of Return (latest in time) for swearing-in. The Senate President’s duty is to act in line with the advice of the Clerk of the National Assembly, based on the legal brief and advice of the Legal Department. It is worthy of note that, with the evidence before us, the Legal Department and the Clerk of the National Assembly have advised the Senate President to swear in Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, in obedience to Court judgments, INEC compliance and Issuance of Certificate of Return to Jarigbe and in total compliance with the Rule of Law.”

On the delay by the Senate to swear in the authentic winner of the senate seat, Omang queried whether “the Senate President is competent to interpret judgments of Courts, or question the actions of INEC? Can the Senate President possibly ask for Results of an Election, before swearing in an Elected Senator, after a Certificate of Return has been issued to an elected Senator? So why should the Senate President dwell on Court judgments and the interpretation thereof, when there is a valid and authentic Certificate of Return Issued? What is going on in the Senate, in the case of Stephen Odey and Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, is an illegality taken too far.”

He emphatically stated that the “Senate President is wrong and should retrace his steps to avoid bringing the institution of the legislature to disrepute. The general public should advise Daniel Bwala, who has been hallucinating on this issue, to accept defeat, instead of prevaricating and coming up with half-truths. These are issues that would have been canvassed in Court. At this point, it is too late to cry wolf. It is professional misconduct to attempt impugning and criticising a judgment of the Supreme Court, whose judgment is final and infallible.”

Drawing from legal precedents to buttress his point, Omang pointed at “the Case of Hon. Dorathy Mato V. Hon. Iorwase Herman Hembe (2017) is a locus classicus on who the authentic candidate of a party is. Hembe was declared the winner by INEC but the Supreme Court gave the Victory to Dorathy Mato, who took over the Seat of House in 2015. Both Hon. Herman Hembe and Hon. Dorathy Mato were members of the APC and the suite was a pre-election matter. It is the party that contest election and not the candidate. Agom was declared winner of the PDP Primary election, monitored by INEC in line with section 85, 86 and 87 of the electoral act. Agom campaigned and took part in all stages of the election but Stephen Odey was erroneously declared.”

He praised the Judiciary, which he described as “the last hope of our Democracy. Jarigbe’s Victory has been affirmed by the judgment of the Supreme Court. The citations of Daniel Bwala are academic and inconsequential at this point. These citations can be applied in Future Litigations, if admissible. The Supreme Court is final and infallible.”