By Ike Uchechukwu
THE Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar, the Cross River State, yesterday, overturned the judgment of the Federal High Court in Uyo and declared Senator Bassey Albert of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, winner of the party’s primary held in December 2014.
In February this year, the Federal High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, sacked Albert, who is the incumbent Senator representing Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District.
Mr Bassey Etim, who claimed he was the real winner of the party’s primary, and was wrongly substituted, had dragged incumbent senator to court.
In delivering the judgment, Justice Fatun Riman of the Federal High Court in Uyo, ordered Albert to refund all salaries and entitlements he had so far collected as Senator, and asked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to issue the certificate of return to Etim as Senator representing the district.
Albert challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal in Calabar, and delivering judgment yesterday, the Presiding Judge, Justice S. J. Adah, with Justices Iheme Nwosu and J. O. K. Oyewole, declared that he was the winner, as his challenger Etim, lacked evidence to support his claim.
Mr. Mba Okweni, SAN, who represented Etim, hinted they would be heading to the Supreme Court to challenge the decision.
His words: “They have nullified the judgment of the Federal High Court which declared Bassey Etim as the actual winner of the PDP primaries that was conducted on the 7th day of December 2014, and then that Albert was properly the candidate of the party.
“Incidentally, Albert is still sitting in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, so he will continue until we test it further and know what the position of the Supreme Court will be.’’
Albert’s lawyer, Oba Folaho Ojibara, said they had overwhelming evidence that his client was the legitimate winner of the primary that eventually led to the 2015 general elections, which he won.
He said: “The issues before the Justices of the Court of Appeal were very clearly narrowed down. The kind of evidence that the appellant presented before the lower court was so overwhelming and the Justices of the Court of Appeal latched on to these bits of evidence.
“You must recall that the first respondent here Bassey Etim was the plaintiff at the lower court and law requires that he who has asked must prove and he was the one coming to court saying that he won the primaries and unfortunately for him, he had nothing to support his claims and that is what their Lordships of the Court of Appeal hammered on very strongly.
“Their Lordships were guided by their records and they looked at the avalanche of documents that the appellant presented in his matter. You must also remember that the appellant was a defendant and so the burden of proof was not on him, but he came to court, before the Federal High Court in Uyo and presented documents after documents, facts after facts, witnesses after witnesses, all to establish the incontrovertible fact that he won the primaries that led to the general election which he also won. So their Lordships of the Court of Appeal have affirmed the mandate of the people of that Senatorial District.”
Godwin Umoh,PDP Legal Adviser, Akwa Ibom state said: “It shows clearly like the Justices of the Supreme Court had said that a political party is supreme. The decision of the party in relation to nomination and primaries is supreme and final and we as a party had nominated Bassey Albert and we showed by credible evidence. I thank the court for doing a wonderful job. They were meticulous.”