By Kunle Olasanmi
Abuja — Civil Society activists and lawyers yesterday charged the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki to obey the Federal High Court judgement that ordered the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East in the National Assembly, Bassey Akpan to vacate his seat immediately.
This is coming few weeks after the Senate President swore in a new Senator from Taraba who won a court judgment arising from pre-election dispute similar to that of Akwa Ibom North East, between Hon Bassey Etim and the embattled Senator Albert Akpan.
The lawyers, Barr. Cosmas Akpumakundu and and Barr Torchukwu Onyekwere, on different occasions, condemned Saraki for interfering with the administration of judicial system, infringing on the power of the Court and that of the electorate.
“This does not speak well for the nation’s democracy if people that are meant to uphold the rule of law blatantly refused to obey court orders.”
According to the lawyers, Section 52 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 7 of the Senate Standing Rule, stipulate that all that is required before the the Senate President administers Oath of office on a Senator elect is just certificate of return and evidence of Asset declaration, as in the extant case where Hon. Etim had been duly issued with Certificate of Return.
“National Assembly therefore needs no legal advice to swear in Etim when there is a valid judgement of a Court arising from a pre-election dispute.”
Mr. Akpumakundu while condemning the Senate for its action, he bemoan the selective swearing in of senators by Saraki as setting a bad precedent and further describe the development as dangerous for the sustenance of nascent democracy.
” Any democratic setting that has disregard for the rule of law is giving room for anarchy.
“If Saraki will go ahead to respect the orders of the Supreme Court by swearing in senator Shuaibu Lau Isa, as Senator representing Taraba North senatorial district following the court orders, then why is Hon Etim’s case different? In a pre-election, the winner must reap the fruit of the Judgement forth with. This is different from a post election, where the electoral Act makes provisions for Right of appeal up to 21 days.
” It goes a long way to show that there is an interest somewhere” he added.
In his part, Barr. Torchukwu Onyekwere said, it is unfortunate that Saraki is disobeying the orders of the same institution that cleared him of his false assets declaration charges before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
He charged him to as a matter of urgency to swear in Hon Etim as senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East in the National Assembly so that the senatorial district will enjoy the benefits of the office
In the same vein, a constitutional lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Barrister Reuben Egwuaba said Saraki’s action is in fragrant disobedient to law and order.
According to lawyer “The refusal of the Senate President to swear-in Hon. Etim who has a similar matter with that of Senator Shuaibu Lau of Taraba State and Attai Aidoko of Kogi state is a sad moment of our democracy.”
He said, “The Senate President Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki is a Senator elected from his senatorial district in the country and apart from the office that he occupies as the Chairman of National Assembly and president of the Senate, he does not have any other right different from other senators that were voted in from other senatorial districts in the country.
“In a democratic setting like Nigeria both the Judiciary and the Legislature are expected to work as equal partners. The Senate President is not suppose to serve as a sabotage to a positive and subsisting order of the court of competent jurisdiction.”
He argued that Saraki’s refusal to swear-in Hon. Etim is in contradiction with the administration of justice, adding “The position of the Senate President is not in anyway expected to be bias to the swearing-in order given by a constituted authority.”
He noted that the legal implication in Saraki’s action shows that having disobeyed a Federal High Court order directing to swear-in Etim, Etim’s lawyers should file a suit seeking judicial interpretation of Saraki’s action.
“Hon Bassey has an opportunity to file an application in a Federal High Court to seek an interpretation of the relevant provision of the constitution and the Electoral Act and other superior courts for interpretation of whether the pronouncement of a Federal High Court in a matter that a court delivered a judgement and the Senate President refusal to comply with a judgement that has not been set aside even when there is no pending motion of stay of execution or evidence of an Appeal,” he added”
It could 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.
But after several appeal to the Senate and also a letter from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minster for Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, directing the Senate to swear Hon Etim in, Saraki has refused to obey the orders of the court.