By Ike Uchechukwu
The Election Petition Tribunal in Cross River State which sat over the petition that followed the outcome of the By-election of December 5, 2020 for the seat of the Cross River North senatorial district, Tuesday adjourned for judgment.
The parties in case No: EPT/CR/SEN/03/2020 between Joe Agi SAN and the All Progressive Congress as the 1st and 2nd Petitioners versus Steven Odey, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, Peoples’ Democratic Party, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as 1st to 4th respondents respectively, all adopted their typed written final address filed in the tribunal.
Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Yusuf Ubale Muhammad ruled that the Tribunal will adjourn for Judgment on a date to be communicated to the parties.
The Petitioners in the case, Joe Agi SAN, the candidate of the All Progressive Congress in the By-election and his party are arguing that they should be declared winner of the election having scored the highest valid votes at the time the votes for the PDP in the by-election was “invalid” and “wasted” because they had no candidate in the polls.
The lead counsel to the petitioners; Muhammad Shu’iebu Esq made his submissions for his clients and advanced several legal authorities to the Tribunal to buttress his argument that the PDP had no candidate that was validly sponsored.
On the side of the four respondents, a mild drama played out as the first and second respondents, Steve Odey and Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, both of the PDP kept insisting individually that they are the rightful candidate of the party.
The division among the respondents at a point left the first, third, and fourth respondents holding common grounds that Seven Odey was the candidate of the PDP while Hon. Jarigbe was left to prove his own argument that he is the rightful candidate of the PDP.
However, all four respondents maintained a common position against the petitioners and asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lack of merits.
Their argument is that the petitioner is meddling in the internal affairs of the PDP which he is not a member. They argued that the grounds of the petition are suited for a pre-election court and not for an election tribunal, thus, should be dismissed as incompetent and lacking in merits.
Recall that the fourth respondent, INEC had declared Seven Odey as duly elected and he was subsequently sworn-in by the National Assembly as a senator.
But subsequent development emerged when an Appeal Court Judgment in a pre-election case declared Hon. Jarigbe as the one who won the PDP primaries and as such should be accorded all the benefits of the candidate of the party. INEC obeyed the Appeal Court Judgment and eventually issued a certificate of Return as Senator to Jarigbe.
The petitioner took advantage of all the developments within the PDP and submitted courts’ judgments showing discrepancies in the PDP as well as the two Certificates of Returns issued by INEC to both Sen. Seven Odey and Hon. Jerigbe for a single election seat.