By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The outcome of Cross River North Senatorial bye-election, Monday, took a new turn as one of Governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade’s aides, Director-General, Cross River State Due Process and Price Intelligence Bureau, Alphonsus Eba, decried action of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for issuing Certificate of Return to Hon. Jarigbe Agom, as winner of the Cross River North Senatorial Bye Election held on December 5, 2020.
Eba made the statement while addressing journalists in Abuja on the issues surrounding the action of INEC, as he went on to speak on other pertinent issues affecting his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Cross River State.
He being a lawyer pointed out that the right of appeal was not exhausted before INEC ‘rushed’ to issue the certificate to Hon. Agom, which is an aberration by law.
He further asserted that INEC acted without any court order mandating it to issue Certificate of Return to Agom who did not win the party primary conducted by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
According to him candidate of the party with nomination form, participated in the party primaries process and won the election, and whose name was sent by the party to INEC and published as winner of the bye-election was Senator Stephen Odey.
While explaining he (Eba) made it clear according to the Constitution said INEC’s issuance of a certificate of return on the ground that certificate of return is not issued to winners of primaries but winners of General elections said, “And since Jarigbe did not participate in the general election, he cannot be declared winner to be issued certificate of return as doing so is a breach of s 285 (13) of the CFRN 1999 as amended.”
He still maintained that the electoral umpire went on the wrong path by issuing a certificate of return to the wrong person (Agom) based on the fact that the issue of jurisdiction of the court was being challenged as it remains an internal matter of a political party because it’s outside the jurisdiction of the Court except when a breach of the fundamental rights of a member or an aspirant occurs which he noted was not the case before the court.
Being an aspirant to become Chairman of PDP, Cross Rivers State Chapter, quoted in 1875 following a widely celebrated case of Dunghall V Gardiner Ch D. 3, where lord Mellish enunciated the theory in Foss V Harbottle the current issue which is purely an internal matter as far as it is concerned.
He also pointed that the principle was later followed in Nigerian judicial system citing the case of Abubakri V Smith in 1973, and was later given a political party seal in the locus classicus of Onuoha V Okafor in 1983 and that has remained the law in 146 years now.
Meanwhile, he (Eba) condemned the suit filed by one John Alaga who was clothed with the insignia of a chief describing it as a sheer act of illegality and criminality, because John Alaga is allegedly one of Agom’ s boys whom he (Agom) allegedly sponsored to Alaga to sue him because he (Agom) wants to misrepresent facts before the court.
He further stated that the real issue that deals with wards and chapters Exco list is currently before the Calabar Division of the State High Court, which according to him was transferred from Abuja to Calabar by the High Court Chief Judge. The case being referred to is with suit No CV/1551/2020 between Emma Odidi and PDP and others.
However, according to him (Eba) the judgment of Justice Binta Mohammed was either a product of swallow adjudication or perhaps, a judgment was given malafide as no reasonable court would have given any consequential order on the issue of candidacy of a political party in a case where the winner of the primaries who is Sen. Odey and PDP his party were not made parties to the suit.
Meanwhile, he (Eba) commended observation of the court of Appeal in finding that the claimant had no locus standi but faulted both courts for not dismissing the suit since that was what a court ought to do once it declares that a claimant has no locus standi because this goes to jurisdiction to entertain the suit and this the court failed to do.
He also cited PDP V Barr. Sopuluchukwu Ezeonwuka, and said both Sen Stephen Adi Odey and the PDP were not parties to the suit, noted that the orders of the trial court which the court of Appeal affirmed in Chief John Alaga V Jarigbe & ors were not binding on both the PDP and Sen Odey.
On the judgment of the Supreme Court, he explained that the apex court, in its judgment delivered on January 6, 2021, in the appeal brought before it by the PDP and Col. Austin Akobundu did not go into the substantive suit.
He further stated that the Supreme Court did not go into the substantive suit which was jurisdictional in nature but only dismissed the appeal on the basis of the preliminary objections raised by Hon Agom, who is the first respondent in the appeal.
Explaining further that the apex court did not declare Agom winner nor did it determine the dispute of wards and chapters exco list in Cross River State.
He urged members of the party to submit to the leadership of the party to resolve whatever dispute that is militating against the peace of the party in the State.
He also added that despite the current challenges of the PDP in the State it remains a strong united front which most of the decisions reached are by consensus of all members.
It will be recalled that Jarigbe and Senator Stephen Odey both of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are currently in a legal battle for the Cross River North Senatorial seat.
The battle is tearing the party along two major lines with the Jarigbe faction been accused of sponsorship by a Governor in the South-South described as the ‘Governor-General of PDP’.
INEC had initially issued a Certificate of Return to Senator Odey who was declared the winner of the December 5, 2020 bye-election in Cross River North Senatorial District.
However, the electoral umpire said to have relied on a court judgment in Abuja issued another Certificate of Return to Hon. Jarigbe.