By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
In a split decision, the Supreme Court, on Thursday, struck out an appeal Senator Stephen Odey filed to be declared the authentic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the Senatorial by-election that held in Cross River North on December 5, 2020.
Whereas three Justices on the seven-man panel that heard the matter, upheld Odey’s case, four other Justices held that the appeal was legally defective, and accordingly struck it out.
In the majority judgement that was read by Justice Centus Nweze, the apex court maintained that Odey’s appeal lacked merit.
It held that processes in the appeal were not properly served, stressing that service is a threshold issue in any litigation.
However, in the minority judgment delivered by Justice Uwani Abb-Aji, three members of the panel said they disagreed with the decision that the service of processes in the matter was defective.
The minority verdict found merit in the appeal and held that it deserved to succeed.
Senator Odey had gone before the apex court to challenge the judgement of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal which voided his candidacy.
Cited as respondents in the appeal were Senator Jarigbe Jarigbe, John Alaga and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Odey had among other things, prayed the Supreme Court to among other things, set aside a portion of the December 17, 2020, judgment of the appellate court that directed INEC to recognise Jarigbe as the candidate of the PDP for the by-election.
Odey stated that his party, the PDP conducted its primary election on September 5, 2020, preparatory to the December 5, 2020 by-election.
He told the apex court that he won the primary election of the party with 450 votes, while Jarigbe scored 90 votes.
According to the appellant, dissatisfied with the outcome of the primary, Jarigbe, went before the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt to challenge it.
Odey added that while Jarigbe’s case was pending, he filed his own suit against INEC for delaying to publish his name as PDP’s candidate, weeks after the party submitted his name as the winner of the primary election.
He stated that the Federal High Court in Calabar delivered its judgments on December 3, 2020, affirming him as the authentic PDP candidate, while the court struck out Jarigbe’s case for want of jurisdiction.
Odey said the Federal High Court proceeded to make an order of perpetual injunction, restraining INEC from interfering with his candidacy.
He said based on the court’s decision, he contested the by-election of December 5, 2020, as the candidate of the PDP and was declared the winner by INEC, following which he was sworn in on December 16, 2020, at the Senate as the Senator representing Cross River North Senatorial District.
The appellant said he was shocked to learn the next day, December 17, 2020, that the Court of Appeal in Abuja upheld an order that was made by an Abuja High Court, which directed INEC to accept Jarigbe as the candidate of the PDP for the same election he won and on which basis he was inaugurated as a Senator.
He stated that unknown to him, while they were before the Federal High Court, Calabar in respect of the suit challenging the outcome of the primary election, an ally of Jarigbe, John Alaga, filed another suit in Abuja on October 5, 2020, claiming that though Jarigbe won the primary, he should be disqualified for submitting forged certificates to INEC.
In a judgment on November 14, 2020, Justice Bintu Mohammed of the High Court of the FCT, dismissed Alaga’s suit marked: CV/77/2020, on the ground that the plaintiff failed to establish his case.
Odey stated that rather than stop at just dismissing the suit, Justice Mohammed proceeded to make consequential orders, directing INEC to recognise Jarigbe as the candidate of the PDP, a decision Alaga appealed to the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
He decried that though the appellate court had in its judgement, held that the suit before the Abuja High Court lacked merit if however failed to set-aside the consequential orders that recognised Jarigbe as the authentic candidate of the PDP for the Cross River North Senatorial District by-election.