The Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar, Cross River State has ordered a rerun election in Essien Udim Local Government Area (LGA) of Akwa Ibom State.
Essien Udim is one of the LGAs in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District of the state where Senator Godswill Akpabio of the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost to Senator Christopher Ekpenyong in the February 23 election.
Senator Akpabio, who is currently the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, had gone to the upper court to challenge the ruling of the National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in Uyo, which affirmed the victory of Senator Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In its judgement delivered on Saturday, the court declared as invalid, the declaration of Christopher Ekpenyong as the winner of the election and the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial district.
It, therefore, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC to conduct a fresh election in Essien Udim Local Government Area of the state within 90 days.
The appellate court held that there was proof of irregularities and non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election within Essien Udim LGA and as such, no one should have been declared a winner.
It stressed that the right thing to do was to conduct a fresh election in the disputed area.
The court, however, noted that in Obot Akara LGA, also within the central district, the appellant could not prove the claim of over-voting or irregularities.
The judgement came barely two months after the Tribunal held that Ekpenyong was the duly elected senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
The Tribunal had, in a majority judgement of two out of the three-man panel of justices, dismissed Senator Akpabio’s petition for “lacking merit”.
It held that the petitioner failed to prove that he won the said election, adding that he could not present convincing evidence of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, as raised in his petition.
The Tribunal, therefore, upheld as valid, the declaration of Senator Ekpenyong as the winner of the election.
The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has filed a suit at the Federal High Court, challenging the powers of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, to constitute an interim management committee to run the affairs of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
The announcement of an interim management team had sparked outrage in the Niger Delta states as many see the move as a way to scuttle the development projects of NDDC.
The Minister was quoted as saying that the interim committee was to prepare ground for the new Board and supervise the forensic audit which the President had ordered weeks ago.
LEDAP in the suit, filed by its Executive Director, Chino Obiagwu SAN, is challenging the appointment of the interim board on the grounds that it is contrary to specific sections of the NDDC Act as amended.
Joined as plaintiffs in the suit are some indigenes of the Niger Delta area, including Iruo Onoruvwe, Anatole Osuji, and Walter Abere.
Other defendants aside the Minister and the NDDC are Dr Gbene Joi Nunieh, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, and Chief Ibanga Basset Etang.
LEDAP specifically wants the four to declare that the purported appointment by the first defendant of a three-man interim management for the second defendant is contrary to sections 2, 10, and 12 of the NDDC Act 6 2000(as amended).
A declaration that the purported appointment by the first defendant of the third defendant as the Managing Director of the second defendant, the fourth as Executive Director, Projects, and the fifth defendant as Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the second defendant are contrary to the provisions of section 12(1)c of the NDCC Act as amended, which provides that the Managing Director and two executive directors of the second defendant shall be appointed by the President, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and confirmed by the Senate in consultation with the House of Representatives.
A declaration that by virtue of Section12(2) of the second defendant of the NDDC Act,the Managing Director of the second defendant performs his functions under the general direction of the board of the second defendant.
A declaration that the first defendant cannot validly appoint the 3rd-5th defendants as acting Managing Director; and Executive Directors of the second defendant while the list of nominated members of board of the second defendant submitted by the President, pursuant to sections 2, 10, and 12 of the NDDC Act 2000 to the National Assembly is pending the approval of of the Senate.
An order nullifying the purported appointmentsof the 3rd-5th defendants as acting Managing Director and Executive Directors of the second defendant;
An order restraining the second defendant and its management from handing over, and, or permitting the 3rd-5th defendants to assume the office of the Managing Director and Executive Directors of the second defendant;
An order restraining the first defendant by himself or anyhow whatsoever from interfering in the affairs of the second defendant in manner inconsistent with the provisions of the NDDC Act.
The court is yet to fix a date for the hearing of the suit.
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja says former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, can move from one party to another.
He stated this on Friday while ruling on a case seeking the removal of Senator Akpabio and 53 other members of the National Assembly who defected from one political party to another in 2018.
An advocacy group, Legal Aides Assistant Project (LEDAP), had instituted the case against the lawmakers and asked the court to declare their seats vacant, noting that there was no division in their parties as claimed.
But Senator Akpabio told the court that he joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) was because he was expelled from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In his ruling, Justice Abang agreed with the lawmaker that he neither decamped nor defected to the APC with the facts placed before the court.
According to him, Senator Akpabio only moved or joined the ruling party on August 3, 2018, and this is based on his freedom of association as envisaged by the law.
The judge said having been expelled by the PDP, the defendant has the constitutional right to join any political party of his choice.
He added that the fact that he was expelled from the opposition party showed there was no division in APC, stating that the plaintiff ought not to have joined him in the suit for his seat to be declared vacant.
Beyond this, Justice Abang stated the matter was sub judice because there was a case concerning Senator Akpabio before a court.
He noted that joining him in the suit amounted to an abuse of court process and as such, the claim as affects him ought to be dismissed.
The judge said at the time the lawmaker joined APC, he was no longer a member of a political party having been expelled by the PDP and was entitled to joining any party without losing his seat.
He said that he agreed with Senator Akapbio that the violation of the law was in good fate, adding that declaring his seat vacant amounted to punishing him for exercising his right to association.
The lawmaker informed Justice Okon Abang that an advocacy group, Legal Aides Assistant Project (LEDAP), instituted the case without a locus standi, adding that it should be dismissed by the court.
He insisted that LEDAP was not a political party or a member of the National Assembly and as such, it cannot cry for the political parties where the lawmakers decamped from.
Relying on Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution, he justified his movement through what he referred to as ‘an uncommon’ situation within (PDP), which compelled him to opt to the All Progressives Congress (APC) as an alternative party to actualise his political interest.
Senator Akpabio’s counsel tendered two exhibits before Justice Abang which include a suspension letter from the PDP and later an expulsion from the party at the local government level.
He, therefore, urged the court to accept the peculiar fact that he did not willingly leave the PDP which sponsored his senatorial election in 2015.
The lawmaker insisted that his defection to the APC was as a result of the action of the PDP against him.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Jibrin Okutepa, also made his case before the court.
After listening to both the parties, Justice Abang adjourned till May 17 on condition of availability of judicial time to rule on the matter.
“The meeting, which was at the instance of Senator Godwill Akpabio, was brokered by two chieftains of the party, Alhaji Nasiru Danu, (the Dan Amarna of Dutse) and Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN,” the spokesman for the APC Presidential Campaign Council said.
He added, “Alhaji Danu, was one of the Directors of Logistics of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and a long-time ally of President Muhammadu Buhari while Mr Keyamo was the Director of Strategic Communications of the APC Presidential Campaign Council.”
The SAN explained that the meeting which lasted several hours took place at the private residence of Mr Danu in the Asokoro region of Abuja, the nation’s capital.
He disclosed that the former governors “frankly and honestly” talked about their disagreements from their days as governors while they were both in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Keyamo added that Amaechi and Akpabio discussed and analysed the performance of the APC in the South-South region in the just-concluded elections and identified areas where things went wrong and how to improve those areas in future.
“At the end, both leaders agreed to close ranks and work in unison for the overall interest of the party in the country,” he said.
“They promised to put behind them all previously perceived misgivings between them and to give a positive direction to the teeming supporters of the party across the country.”
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has given the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, former PDP Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio and 50 other lawmakers, until April 17 to file their responses to a suit asking them to vacate their seats.
The suit filed by Legal Defense and Assistance Project (LEDAP) urged the court to declare that the lawmakers are no longer members of the National Assembly, after defecting to other political parties without proof of division before the expiration of their tenure.
At the resumed hearing, Efut Okoi represented the affected senators, while Safiya Mohammed represented the members of the house of representatives.
Meanwhile, counsel to LEDAP, Jubrin Okutepa, described the sudden change of counsels by the defendants as a ploy to frustrate the case.
He urged the court to ask the previous defense counsel, Mahmud Magaji, to appear and argue his earlier application.
“These are defendants who were served the process of the court since November 2, 2018 and by the rules of court, they had 14 days within which to file their counter affidavit and defense if any.
“Yesterday they stalled proceedings, today again, they came with different lawyers, different processes, confronting us in court. So, the system of justice must not be allowed to suffer a shipwreck by deliberate antics.”
Okutepa added that the essence of the suit is to seek constitutional interpretation and make necessary corrections where necessary.
“This is a simple but fundamental case that involves tax payers money, we are saying you have defected from one party to the other, then the constitution says vacate and you are still there making laws, collecting salaries. We are saying, look, you can’t do that, we operate a constitutional democracy and we are here to simply interpret the constitution.”
Justice Okon Abang, after listening to all the parties, held that it is in the interest of justice to hear all counsel in the matter and subsequently adjourned further hearing to April 18,2019.
Senator Godswill Akpabio has withdrawn his application from the FCT High Court, seeking a Judicial review of the National Assembly election in his senatorial district.
Mr Akpabio who confirmed this to Channels Television on Friday said the withdrawal was to avoid abuse of court processes.
The trial judge Justice valentine Ashi of the FCT High Court also confirmed the withdrawal.
Speaking further, he explained that the order of stay issued last Friday was not to stop the Independent National Electoral Commissioner (INEC) from carrying out its function but to enable an applicant to exercise his rights.
A former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, has vowed to ensure that the victory of Dr Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election for Ikot-Ekpene Senatorial District is reversed.
Dr Ekpenyong was declared winner of the senatorial seat after polling 118,215 votes to defeat Senator Akpabio of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who got 83,158 votes.
Senator Akpabio who was a former Senate Minority Leader while he was with the PDP, said he would challenge the results of the election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Tuesday.
He told Channels Television on its live programme on the election, The Verdict, that he won the poll and was optimistic that the court would make the final decision.
“It’s a temporary setback,” the lawmaker insisted. “That is why there are processes. For instance, if you feel that you were cheated or there was wrong collation, you have recourse to the courts. I did not fail; I can’t fail.”
Akpabio added, “I believe strongly that there must have been some wrong collation somewhere. Those things will be corrected. We have processes in the election. It’s from one stage; we have to do registration, vote and collate.”
The announcement of the election was made under controversial circumstances, as it was moved to the INEC headquarters in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, instead of Ikot-Ekpene, because of the tension following the election in the area.
There was a disagreement among lawmakers on the floor of the Senate during Wednesday’s plenary in Abuja.
The dispute started when the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, declined the request of former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who wanted to make a contribution to a matter raised by Senator Bassey Akpan from Akwa Ibom State.
Senator Akpan, who is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker, had alleged that the All Progressives Congress (APC) was planning to disrupt the elections in the state.
Meanwhile, some senators were of the opinion that the Senate President was biased to the APC lawmaker in making such decision.
Senator Saraki, in his defence, explained that Senator Akpabio was seating in an unallocated seat and one without a microphone.
On his part, Senator Akpabio argued that he was allocated the seat by the Clerk.
When questioned, the Clerk responded that the former Senate Minority Leader insisted that he would sit on the seat.
The Senate President then urged Senator Akpabio to relocate to a seat which had a microphone.
The situation was eventually calmed as Senator Akpabio apologised for his action and the Senate President urged the clerk to allocate seats in the coming week.
He said this while appraising the performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration in securing the nation, especially in the war against insurgency in the North East.
“President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has come; it has shown a lot of commitment towards fighting insurgents,” Akpabio said.
“At that time when we were in charge, the PDP, I can tell you that so many communities and local governments across the North East were under the control of Boko Haram. Their flags were flying everywhere, and they were moving around freely.”
The lawmaker stressed that the situation was so bad at that time that the terrorists had “a government-within-government” in Borno and some other affected states.
But he said the present government has managed to ensure that the insurgents no longer hold any territory in the state and other parts of the region.
Senator Akpabio was hopeful that other insecurity issues in the country, especially the crisis between herdsmen and farmers which has claimed many lives this year, can also be addressed.
He asked leaders in the country to take a cue from the United States and other developed nations, to put aside their political differences, and unite to tackle the problems in the national interest.
Akpabio said, “When a country is in crisis; when there is an emergency, all hands must be on deck. We are not learning from America and other places.
“If we have people from outside marauding over Nigeria, causing a lot of kidnappings and insurgencies and then you realise that not all of them are Nigerians, and these things are meant to destabilise the Federal Government, what should we do? As nationalists, we want Nigeria to survive – it doesn’t matter the political party.”
In this exclusive interview with Ladi Akeredolu-Ale on Channels Television’s Roadmap 2019, the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, spoke about Nigeria’s challenges, the forthcoming elections, and the controversy surrounding his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), among other issues.
So many people were caught unawares by your move from one direction to the other. Most people expected moves from one direction to another, but yours was in the other direction. I think this is the first time you probably would have the opportunity to explain why you took that decision. Why did you?
I think it was very sudden a decision to move from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where I was one of the chieftains to the All Progressives Congress (APC). In has generated a lot of controversy in the polity but the reality is that I moved in the national interest. I moved as a result of personal convictions and I moved in order to contribute my quota towards saving democracy in Nigeria.
You’ve been in the PDP. You’ve served as commissioner, became governor (two terms), Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum; you went to the Senate and during your first term you were made the Senate Minority Leader. So, people would ask what more could you possibly be thinking that would make you move in that direction at this time?
I won’t say it was a spur of the moment decision, but I would rather say that what actually happened was that I saw a situation of where the country is likely to go into a crisis as a result of what I may call ‘sudden defections’ – so, it’s a systematic attempt to bring democracy to an end in the country. In the PDP, we suffered a major setback when in 2014 or thereabouts, we had some governors with some chieftains walked out on us at the Eagle Square during the National Convention, and thereafter they teamed up with a couple of others and then the APC was formed. We thought it was a joke but it turned out that at the end of the day, after the 2015 elections, we suffered a major defeat and I think that was the first time in the history of Nigeria that an incumbent Federal Government will be defeated, and it was also a fantastic beauty for democracy, and it was a good sign in Africa.
Thus far, when I watched what was going on in the Senate, it could have been advantageous to my party then (PDP) but I found out that it was likely to crash the Federal Government and I said when this end will? If we vote a government into power, I will support that government. Continuous distractions of government in the past, including the state government, in some instances, have resulted in a lot of dislocation of policies and stunted growth. Today, Africa generally is almost a laughing stock in the comity of civilised democracies in the world because so many noises were made during an election and at the end, so little in terms of deliverables.
These things are as a result of continuous conspiracies against the government and all sorts of things. So, I don’t think that the movements that we saw from the APC to my then party were prompted by national interest, I think most of those things were based on the personal interest of individuals. Some felt that they may not be able to win an election, some felt that they had offended the principalities in their party and so, they decided to move.
For me, I saw a situation where the ruling party was not only being distracted but the movements were capable of bringing down the government. We need to have Nigeria before we can have the election. A country can crash under three months, we need to have Nigeria before we can have an election. I just assessed the situation and I said I needed to contribute my quota towards stabilising the situation; towards ensuring that people realise that it wasn’t all about a conspiracy to bring down a government but to conspire to resolve the security situation.
We should conspire to provide employment opportunities; we should conspire to stabilise the government, to ensure that we leave a better future for our children.
We should conspire to bring food to the table of Nigerians; not to conspire to just take government for the sake of taking government.
The reason why I’m saying this is that in 2015, a group of Nigerians (major stakeholders then) in the PDP came together and conspired to crash the government of the then President Goodluck Jonathan. They were able to give all sorts of reasons – inability to ensure the security of the nation, Boko Haram was terrorising the North-eastern part of Nigeria and was likely to spread to the North-west and the South-south and so, there was a need for them to do something to ensure that the government was changed.
But we’ve seen now that a change of government, a change at the federal level was not necessarily in the interest of the nation, it was in the interest of those people. Now, President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has come; it has shown a lot of commitment towards fighting insurgents. At that time when we were in charge in the PDP, I can tell you that so many communities and local governments across the North East were under the control of Boko Haram, their flags were flying everywhere and they were moving around freely.
In fact, they were a government-within-government. But since this administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board, they have managed to ensure that no single territory is being held by Boko Haram. The next thing was the escalation of the herdsmen-farmers crisis and thereafter, the entry of terrorists from outside Nigeria.
Before you knew it, there was the emergence of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and we have not totally settled the issue of Niger Delta militancy and our fear is that the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) could also come on stream. In my senatorial district, we have a group of young militants who have taken over three communities of my senatorial district today.
So, a change to the Federal Government is not necessarily a panacea towards the stability of the nation and security of the nation. I think what we need to do, as Nigerians, is in a non-partisan way across party lines, when we install a government at the Federal level, we must support that government to succeed.
There will be those who will say since you were going to be one of the beneficiaries from the way things were going, was it not possible to do what you wanted to within the ambit of the PDP?
You don’t even understand. Elections are in 2019, and the movements we are talking about happened this year. Looking at them, they are capable of crashing the Federal Government even before the election; that was why I said we need to have Nigeria before we talk about the elections.
Nigerians are not so much interested in who is in charge; Nigerians want to be secured, Nigerians want to sleep with their eyes closed; Nigerians want to see their children get a good education, they want to move around without let or hindrance. But you see, we seem to miss the point. The point is that we have a major situation in Nigeria. When a country is in crisis; when there is an emergency, every hand must be on deck.
We are not learning from America and other places. If we have people from outside marauding over Nigeria, killing people in Plateau State, killing people in Benue State, killing in Adamawa, killing in Taraba; causing a lot of kidnappings and insurgencies and then you realise that not all of them are Nigerians, and these things are meant to destabilise the Federal Government, what should we do?
As nationalists, we should want Nigeria to survive – it doesn’t matter the political party. That is the wrongest (if that word exists in English) time, in my opinion, for us to continue defection. The intention here is to bring down the Federal Government even before the elections.
To point the Federal Government in a bad light; I’m sorry, I don’t think I owe so much apologises to people who may not think well of Nigeria, who only think of their electoral fortunes and all that. Yes, it could provide electoral fortunes for them but for me, there was a need for us to ensure that Nigeria survives before any election.
Senator Godswill Akpabio says the recent defections in the All Progressives Congress (APC) was an attempt to frustrate the efforts of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The lawmaker took a swipe at those who defected from the party during an interview on Channels Television’s Roadmap 2019.
“For me, I saw a situation where the ruling party was not only being distracted but the movements were capable of bringing down the government,” he said on the special political programme which aired on Monday.
“We need to have Nigeria before we can have the election. These things are as a result of continuous conspiracies against government and all sorts of things.”
Several top members of the APC, including Senate President Bukola Saraki and the governors Benue, Kwara, and Sokoto defected from the party recently.
All of them accused the APC of failing to keep its promises to the nation and attributed their defection to national interest.
But Akpabio faulted their motives, insisting they had nothing to do with national interest.
The former Senate Minority leader who had recently defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC recently himself, however, attributed his own decision to the national interest.
He said, “I don’t think that the movements that we saw from the APC to my then party were prompted by national interest, I think most of those things were based on the personal interest of individuals.”
“I just assessed the situation and I said I needed to contribute my quota towards stabilising the situation; towards ensuring that people realise that it wasn’t all about a conspiracy to bring down a government but to conspire to resolve the security situation.”
Ahead of the 2019 elections, Senator Akpabio urged leaders in the country to shift their attention from political interest and work for the good of the people.
He also advised the critics of President Buhari’s administration to support the government to tackle insecurity and other challenges of the nation rather than coming together to take over power at the centre.
Akpabio said, “We need to have Nigeria before we can have an election. We should conspire to provide employment opportunities.”
“We should conspire to stabilise the government, to ensure that we leave a better future for our children. We should conspire to bring food to the table of Nigerians; not to conspire to just take government for the sake of taking government.”