By Oludare Richards
Abuja — The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in a letter written to the Senate leadership, has called on Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to honour the judgment of a Federal High Court, Uyo regarding the representation of Akwa-Ibom North-East Senatorial district at the Senate.
The letter with Reference number MJ/LIT/ABJ/MOC/112/17 reads in part: “The Senate of NASS is therefore required to comply with the judgment in suit no FHC/UY/CS/1087/2015 between Hon. Bassey Etim and People’s Democratic Party 2ors by swearing in Hon. Bassey Etim as the Senator representing Akwa-Ibom North-East Senatorial district in the Senate of the NASS.”
It would be recalled that the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, had on February 27, 2017 ordered the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East in the National Assembly, Bassey Akpan to vacate his seat immediately.
The court presided over by Justice Fatun Riman, asked the Independent National Electoral Commission to withdraw the Certificate of Return it issued to Akpan and awarded N200,000 costs in favour of the plaintiff, Mr Bassey Etim.
The presiding judge also ordered INEC to issue a new Certificate of Return to Etim and the National Assembly to swear-in the plaintiff as a senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East in the National Assembly.
The court, in addition, directed that Akpan refunds all salaries and entitlement he collected so far as a senator to the Federal Government.
In his judgment, Riman, said that Akpan was not duly elected in the primary election of the People’s Democratic Party on December 7, 2014.
However, the Senate President is yet to swear in Etim even after a certificate of return was issued to him by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC).
In a similar trend with Etim, the Supreme Court of Nigeria had ordered the Senator representing Taraba North Senatorial District, Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi, and member representing Vandikwa/ Konshisha constituency of Benue State Iorwase Herman Hembe, to vacate the seat immediately and refund all salaries and allowances he received within 90 days.
Meanwhile, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, has said for any legislator removed by a court judgment to remain in the Senate is an illegal act that amounts to disobedience of court orders.
The senior lawyer said that “in reality, if a Supreme Court has declared a verdict on a matter, there is no reversal and the continuous stay of the other senator who was removed from the Senate by the Federal High Court, Uyo is illegal.”
“The Senate President refusal to swear in the person the judgment was passed in his favour amount to disobedience to court order.”
In a pre-election Judgement, Supreme Court declared that until the judgement is set aside by a superior court of records, the Judgement remains valid and is binding.
Ikechukwu said this justifies the principle of rule of law and separation of powers, as Senate cannot constitute itself into appellate court.
Abuja-based Human Rights Activist and Constitutional lawyer, Mr. Nkereuwem Akpan, berated the Senate Leadership on refusal to swear in Etim over an excuse of awaiting legal advice from Legal Department of National Assembly.
He said where there is a Court Judgement, “the principal officers of both houses of the NASS owe themselves a duty of ensuring that they do not collude with sitting members of Parliament to subvert the cause of justice otherwise they would be personally liable for such gross violation of their oath of office and of allegiance to the 1999 constitution.”
He also said Senator Abubakar Danladi of Taraba State and Benue State Representative Herman Hembe’s ouster by Supreme Court is final and with regards to the matter decided by the Uyo division of the Federal High Court.
According to him, just like any other decision of a court of competent jurisdiction, the just been of the Uyo state High Court is valid and subsisting; adding that it is
“hypocritical unconstitutional and immoral for Saraki to disrespect the ruling of the court.
“It is against the spirit and letter of the 1999 constitution for anyone, no matter how highly placed, to ignore and or refuse to obey a valid order of court,” he said.
Noting that in a pre-election matter, appeal does not operate as a stay, particularly as the Court who delivered the Judgement has since dismissed the application for stay of Execution filed by the ousted senator.