Joe Effiong, Uyo
Akwa Ibom State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has raised the alarm over the refusal of the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar to give judgment on appeals filed against the party and its candidates by the All Progressives (APC) and some of its National Assembly candidates.
Addressing the press in Uyo on Thursday, the state Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr Ini Ememobong, said the Court of Appeal upon concluding hearing on the appeals filed by Bassey Etim, Emmanuel Ukoette and the All Progressives Congress against the judgements of the Election Petition Tribunal delivered in favour of Senator Bassey Albert (Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District) and Hon Unyime Idem (Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency) respectively adjourned for judgement on Tuesday 15th October, 2019.
Ememobong said on the said date, the panel arrived at the court premises but did not sit only for the registrar of the court to announce in open court that judgment in all the cases on the cause list for that day would no longer be delivered, without any further explanation.
“As a party and defendant in these matters, we find this situation very awkward and therefore invite the attention of the international community, the National Judicial Council, Chief Justice of Nigeria, civil society groups to the existing anomaly as regards these cases. It is trite law that after the adoption of briefs by parties and a court adjourns for judgement, on the next adjourned date, it is obligatory for the court to deliver judgement on the matter, except where things arise that make it impossible for the judgement to be delivered. In such exceptional cases, all the parties must be informed of such supervening circumstances.
“In the instant case, there was no explanation whatsoever and there is till date, no explanation for the inability of the court to deliver judgement on these cases.
“We would have ignored the situation or second guessed that there were genuine reasons for the failure to deliver the judgement, but not for the sudden celebration in the camp of the opposition APC, evident majorly on the social media accounts of APC media aides and supporters clamouring that they have caused a change in the panel to sit and hear the appeal and that the new panel is set to deliver judgement in their favour.
“This event forces a reminiscence of the Chief Godswill Akpabio pre-emptive legal circus where APC media night soil men had already informed the world of the existence of a minority judgement earlier in the day before the drama eventually became reality. We hope and pray that this postulation never materialises.”
He said the PDP was very suspicious of the newfound jubilant mood which as conveyed by the opposition APC, is predicated on their report of a new panel by the Court of Appeal whose mandate is to deliver judgement in favour of the APC.
“We need not emphasise that elections in the affected constituencies were won fair and square by Obong Bassey Albert, and Hon. Unyime Idems with APC candidates trailing miserably far behind. The Court of Appeal being a creation of law to protect and uphold democratic governance cannot become a vehicle for the subjugation of popular will freely manifest through the ballot.
“While our party and our candidates, who have transited into government functionaries are peace-loving and law-abiding citizens, we advise the various authorities adjudicating on election matters not to mistake our civility and respect for the rule of law, for ignorance or cowardice. We, therefore, demand that the judgement in the cases of Senator Bassey Albert, Hon. Unyime Idem and all other cases due for judgement be delivered without any further delay.
“We urge the noble justices of the Court of Appeal to do justice according to law and deliver justice, conscious that it is a sacred duty, which they took an oath to perform.
“They should be circumspect of political turncoats and opportunists masquerading as statesmen and federal agents, who promise them favours that can rob the judiciary of its nobility. The justices must remember their sacred roles as ministers in the temple of justice and avoid the shame that their compromise can bring to their name and the noble profession.
“They must realise that what money cannot do, more money will not do. Integrity cannot be bought with money, no matter the amount. ”
He said it has become traditional for the APC in Akwa Ibom to think that a change of panel would automatically guarantee their victory in court, just like they thought that “federal might” and “walking stick” contractors will help them win at the polls.
“Acting under this evil veil, they blackmailed the National and State Houses of Assembly Tribunal in the state and in one instance got a change of panel, yet, nothing fruitful came out of the process for them, as judgments were serially delivered in favour of PDP candidates, according to law.”
As respondents in the referred suits, PDP said it considered a change of panel unnecessarily outright as there was no justification for such, as they said they were not afraid of any panel change since law is near certain and varies not with the skin colour, religion, tribe or surname of the Judge.
“We are, however, concerned with the level of indulgence granted the APC and the legality of such an action. We live in a country of law and generally subscribe to the supremacy of law.
“We would therefore urge the relevant authorities, especially the President of the Court of Appeal to be guided by the law in the discharge of the functions of his office, without partisan considerations, especially with the obvious prevailing circumstances,” the PDP said.