By Ise-Oluwa Ige
ABUJAâ€”THE Abuja division of the Court of Appeal, Wednesday, sacked the Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Martin Okonta from office.
The court held that he wasnot the duly sponsored candidate of the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2007 State House of Assembly elections in the state.
Chairman of the panel, Justice Uwani Abba-Aji who led Justices Jimi Olukayode Bada and Abdu Aboke in his judgment ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue the cross appellant, Kingsley Nonye Philip, the certificate of return, with immediate effect. He said that the matter had dragged for long.
In the judgment read by Justice Uwani Abba-Aji, the court said that the election was in contravention of section 34 of the Electoral Act, 2006.
In the unanimous judgment, the court advised INEC to always play a neutral role as an arbiter in political elections in line with the law establishing it.
Earlier at the trial court, the consequential orders sought by the Kingsley Nonye Philip who was the complainant was turned down.
The court, however, agreed that he was the duly sponsored candidate of the party and not the Speaker, Okonta.
Though Philip won the case at the lower court, he was not satisfied as he proceeded to cross appeal before the appellate court when his opponent filed an appeal challenging the decision of the court.
In the appellate court, he got what he missed at the lower court when the appeal court made some consequential orders including the fact that the Clerk of the Delta State House of Assembly, should swear Philip into the Assembly as the winner of the said poll in 2007.
Besides, the court entered a judgment cost of N100 million in favour of Philip against the appellant.
In his reaction, counsel to the cross-appellant, Ibrahim Idris, said the matter has further expanded the frontiers of the law especially as it relates to what the duties of INEC should be as well as what the politicians should do in any poll.
Efforts to reach Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, counsel to the Speaker, to know if they would go to the Supreme Court failed at the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile counsel to Philip conceded that the appellant has the right of appeal up to the Supreme Court level since the instant matter flowed through the regular court and not the election petition tribunal.
In the meantime, Vanguard gathered last night that the chambers of Lateef Fagbemi had filed an application at the Supreme Court to stay execution of the Court of Appeal judgment.