By Henry Umoru, Emmanuel Ayungbe & Chioma Onuegbu
UYO—A Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, yesterday, sacked the Senate Committee Chairman on Oil and Gas, Senator Bassey Akpan, representing Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district.
Trial judge, Justice Fatun Riman, in a judgment in the pre-election matter brought before the court by a former House of Representatives member, Elder Bassey Etim, challenging the wrongful substitution of his name with that of Bassey Akpan, as a winner of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, primaries for Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district in 2014 by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said it was unconstitutional, null and void.
“I have carefully read the written submission of counsel to parties and the replies on point of law and the facts of exhibit placed before me. In consequence, therefore, I enter judgement in favour of the plaintiff, Elder Bassey Etim,” the judge held.
Justice Riman ordered INEC to immediately issue fresh Certificate of Return to the plaintiff as the true and bona fide candidate of Akwa Ibom North East senatorial PDP primaries.
He ordered INEC to set aside the certificate of return issued to Akpan as winner of the 2015 senatorial election.
The judge also ordered that “All monies collected or earned by Senator Akpan during his membership in the Senate to date in whatever source should be refunded to the Federal Government.”
Justice Riman awarded N200,000 cost in favour of the plaintiff, Bassey Etim, against the first and third defendants.
Meanwhile, Senator Akpan and the PDP, yesterday, said that they will appeal the judgment.
Senator Akpan, in a statement, yesterday, said: “This judgment justifies and reflects the biased conduct of Justice Riman throughout the trial of this case which culminated in my petition to the National Judicial Council, NJC, and the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court on November 7, 2016, accusing Justice Riman of bias and antagonism towards me and requesting him to disqualify himself from the case.
“I wish to inform my teeming supporters and the good people of Akwa Ibom North East that this is a pre-election matter and therefore, the judgment of Justice Riman is not final as I have directed my lawyers after their legal briefing on this matter to exercise my rights of appeal to ensure that we get justice at the Court of Appeal.”
On its part, PDP Publicity Secretary, Iniobong Ememobong in a the statement on behalf of the state Chairman, Obong Paul Ekpo, said the party has directed its lawyers to immediately appeal the judgment.
He maintained that Senator Albert was the party’s choice for the Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district, adding that the PDP will stop at nothing to ensure that Albert retains his seat for the senatorial district.