• You’re biased, Akpan tells judge
From Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, has sacked Senator Bassey Albert Akpan and declared Mr. Bassey Etim, winner of the 2014 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries of the senatorial district.
Akpan represents Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district in the Eighth Senate.
Consequently, the court, presided over by Justice Fatun Riman, has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a Certificate of Return to Etim and set aside that of Albert, who chairs the Senate Committee on Gas.
Also, Clerk to the National Assembly has been directed to swear in Etim as the senator representing Akwa Ibom North East just as Albert has been ordered to refund entitlements and benefits attached he hs collected thus far.
The court equally placed N200,000 fine, each, against Albert and the PDP, in favour of Etim.
The court held that, from available evidence, Akpan had no interest in the senatorial seat as at the time when the primary election was held because he was one of the leading gubernatorial aspirants.
The court faulted the primary which threw up Akpan as the PDP flagbearer and subsequent election which gave him the senatorial seat.
It held that Akpan was smuggled into the race and foisted on the PDP, to the detriment of Etim, who had participated and was declared winner of the primary.
“The burden of proof shifted to Akpan and PDP, which failed to discharge their defence witnesses. The defence witnesses proved that they were not witnesses of truth because they presented conflicting and contradicting evidences and testimonies against themselves.
“The PDP, till today, had succeeded in robbing Etim to pay Albert.
“The third defendant relishes in the illegality penetrated during the primary. Therefore, Etim is the correct and only candidate of the PDP for Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district. What played out was the foisting of Bassey Albert Akpan on the PDP,” the judge stated.
Etim’s counsel, Taiwo Abe (SAN), commended the judge “for causing justice to be done” in favour of Etim whom he said was the duly nominated candidate of the party.
The state PDP, however, described the judgment as shocking and dramatic. Speaking through its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ini Ememobong, the party said as a law abiding legal entity, the state Chairman, Obong Ekpo has directed the legal department to file a Notice of Appeal, in the Court of Appeal, while studying the judgment of the lower court.
Meanwhile, senator Akpan has accused Justice Riman of bias.
Reacting to the judgment, Akpan reiterated that the judge was biased against him.
In a statement, yesterday, the senator 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 supporters and 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 beefing on this matter to exercise my right of appeal to ensure that we get judgment at the Court of Appeal.”
Akpan said his lawyers have also informed him that they had filed an application for a stay of execution pending the hearing of his appeal at the Court of Appeal.
The lawmaker insisted he remains the senator representing Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district in the Senate.