By Ebere Agozie, Abuja.
The Supreme Court on Friday restored former Gov. Godwin Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Akwa Ibom North Senatorial District.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which in September 2022 endorsed the candidacy of Akpabio, the immediate-past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
Saulawa, after reviewing the arguments put forward by Akpabio, said that his appeal was meritorious and, therefore, allowed.
The judgment was on an appeal filed by Akpabio, challenging the verdict of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which overturned his victory at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
In arriving at its decision, the Supreme Court said that each of the 10 issues formulated by the appellant was resolved in his favour and against the respondent.
It held that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the case, adding that whatever decision arrived at by the court amounted to nullity.
It would be recalled that the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal had on Nov. 14, 2022, set aside the judgment of Federal High Court, Abuja, and removed Akpabio as the APC candidate for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
A three-member panel of judges, led by Justice Danlami Senchi, held that Akpabio failed to file a proof of arguments within the time provided by the rules.
The court also ruled that Akpabio, having contested the presidential primary of the APC, could not participate in the valid senatorial primary of the party, held on May 27 and monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which produced Udom Ekpoudom as a candidate.
But Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had on Sept. 22, 2022, ordered INEC to reinstate Sen. Akpabio as APC’s candidate, being the candidate nominated by the party in the second primary of June 9.
The trial court had directed INEC to accept the former Minister of Niger Delta as the APC flagbearer.
Nwite also ordered INEC to 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.
He added that Akpabio was validly nominated as the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District candidate of the APC at the primary election conducted by the party’s National Working Committee on June 9, 2022.
The judge faulted INEC’s decision to monitor the May 27 primary election, conducted by an illegal faction of the party led by Augustine Ekanem as against the June 9 primary election authorised conducted by the APC NWC.