From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court has restored former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godwin Akpabio as the Senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress APC for Akwa Ibom North Senatorial District.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, the Apex Court upheld the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja which in September last year granted verdict in favour of the immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
Justice Saulawa after reviewing the arguments canvassed by Akpabio said that his appeal was meritorious and was allowed.
Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, who read the lead judgment, held that the appellate court lacked the jurisdiction to meddle in the issue of nomination of candidate for an election, which it said was within the purview of an internal affair of a political party.
The apex court panel resolved 10 issues Akpabio raised before it in his favour and accordingly vacated the November 14, 2022 judgement of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to recognize Mr. Udom Ekpoudom as the authentic candidate of the APC for the senatorial contest.
A Federal High Court in Abuja had on September 22 asked electoral body, INEC to reinstate Senator Akpabio as APC’s candidate, being the candidate nominated by the party in the second primary of June 9.
The lower court had directed that INEC accepts the former Minister of Niger Delta as the APC flagbearer.
The court also ordered that INEC publish Akpabio’s name as APC senatorial candidate for Akwa Ibom North/West senatorial district in 2023, stating that the Commission acted illegally by refusing to accept and publish the former governor’s name when it was submitted to it by the APC as its candidate.
Justice Emeka Nwite who delivered judgment held that Akpabio was validly nominated as the Akwa – Ibom North/West Senatorial District candidate of the APC from the primary conducted by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) on June 9, 2022.
The trial Judge faulted INEC for electing to monitor the May 27 primary, conducted by an illegal faction of the party led by Augustine Ekanem as against the June 9 primary authorized conducted by the APC NWC.
However, the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal had in a judgment delivered on November14, 2022 voided the candidacy of the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs while setting aside the judgment of the lower court.
A three-member panel of the appellate presided over by Justice Danlami Senchi on Monday, stating that Akpabio failed to file a proof of arguments within the time frame specified by the rules.
The court also ruled that Akpabio, as an APC presidential candidate, could not participate in the party’s valid primary held on May 27 and overseen by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which produced Udom Ekpoudom as a candidate.
Disatisfied, Akpabio had appealed the judgment of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.
Justice Saulawa said after reviewing the arguments canvassed by Akpabio, the Supreme Court consider his appeal was meritorious and therefore was allowed.
Reacting to the judgment, Akpabio described it as a victory for democracy, rule of law and the party.
While extending an olive leave to his challenger, he called on all members of the party to unite and work for the victory of the party.