Supreme Court judgment on Cross River North senatorial by-election raises concerns
Delay in implementing the February 25, 2021 Supreme Court’s lead judgment in the Cross River North Senatorial by-election by the Senate has been causing concerns as different arguments have been advanced for or against it.
The race for the senatorial position started last year following the death of Senator Rose Oko. Controversy had ensued over the list of delegates from the ward and chapter congresses of March 7 and 21, 2020 for the September 5, 2020 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary.
PDP National Working Committee (NWC) confirmed the list, which was endorsed by the National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd.) on April 26, 2020.
However, some members of the NWC disagreed on this, while attempt to smuggle in another list dated April 27, 2020 failed.
The Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State presided over by Justice I. M. Sani affirmed the April 26, 2020 list and barred PDP’s NWC from altering the March 7 and 21, 2020 ward and chapter executives’ congresses that produced the April 26 list for the September 5, 2020 primary.
One of the candidates, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, was disqualified from contesting the primary by a factionalised PDP committee set up to screen the candidates leaving Dr. Stephen Odey and two others in the race.
Counsel to Jarigbe, Chief Ifedayo A. Adedipe (SAN) had challenged his (Jarigbe’s) disqualification from the primary and prayed the court to set it aside, determine the authentic delegates’ list and venue of the primary.
Counsel to the PDP and its National Legal Adviser, Emmanuel Enoidem, battled to stop this, but Justice Sani ruled in Jarigbe’s favour and held that the first defendant (PDP) and second defendant, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have no right to alter the list of elected officials of the March 7 and 21, 2020 and that list should be used for the September 5, 2020 primary.
Jarigbe and Odey had paralleled primaries and in the December 5 election, the PDP held the election with two candidates, as the Federal High Courts in Calabar and Abuja declared Odey and Jarigbe the party’s candidates.
INEC declared PDP winner of the election and Odey was sworn in at the Senate despite the legal tussles, but a few days after, Jerigbe got a judgment from the Appeal Court and a Certificate of Return issued to him.
Although he (Jarigbe) was yet to be sworn in by the Senate since the Supreme Court ruling of February 25, 2021 struck out Odey and others appeals, thus sustaining the Appeal Court judgment.
Since then, there have been arguments and counter arguments on the outcome of the February 25, 2021 Supreme Court judgment as so far Jarigbe has not been sworn-in.
Jarigbe defeated Odey at the High, Appeal and Supreme Courts, but Odey and his supporters are insisting that he was the senator even when INEC had withdrawn his certificate of return and given it to Jarigbe.
It has been also been argued that the Senate has refused to swear in Jarigbe claiming the Supreme Court judgment on the case was not declarative.
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