The Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar has declared the Member representing Obudu/Yala Federal Constituency Hon. Jerigbe Agom Jarigbe of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as Senator elect for Cross River North senatorial district.
In a judgement delivered on Friday, the three man Appeal Tribunal headed by Hon. Justice Chioma I. Nwosu, held that Jarigbe was the lawful candidate of the PDP for the December 5th, 2020 By-election, and not Dr. Steven Odey.
Consequently, the Court invalidated the Certificate of Return earlier issued to Odey by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Friday’s judgement invalidated the June 18th, 2021 judgement of the Cross River State Election Petitions Tribunal which declared that Odey was the authentic candidate of the PDP.
Delivering judgement in consolidated Suit No CAL/C/NAEA/SEN/167/2021, the Appeal Court said the election tribunal, erred in law by ignoring earlier judgements by superior courts that recognised and declared Jarigbe as candidate of the PDP and winner of the by-election.
“It is our humble and firm view that the issue calls for consideration whether the tribunal was right to jettison the decision of the High Court, Appeal Court and Supreme Court and declare the 1st Respondent (Odey) as validly elected,” the Appeal Court said.
Continuing, the court said, “The tribunal is bound by the decisions of superior Courts on the same issue,” adding that “The law does not allow the tribunal to take a different position as the law has already affirmed that Hon. Jarigbe is the lawful candidate of the PDP”.
Stressing that the Appeal court is bound by decisions of courts superior to the trial courts, the Appeal court panel headed by Justice Nwosu declared Jarigbe as the Senator Elect for Cross River North Senatorial District.
The Appeal court also stated that the PDP held the primary election that threw up Odey in contempt of a court order that had directed that only the authentic list of delegates for the nomination of candidate should be used for the secondary election.
In ordering INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Jarigbe, the Appeal Court said: “Two certificates of return cannot exist in the eye of the law. The judgment of the election tribunal is hereby set aside.”
The petition of the All Progressives Congress ( APC) candidate, Joe Agi, SAN, whose case against Jarigbe and Odey was part of the consolidated appeal, was dismissed for lack of merit.
Agi had argued that while Odey was an impostor having failed to clinch the ticket of the PDP to contest the by-election, Jarigbe though recognized as the candidate of the PDP by the Supreme court didn’t contest the election of December 5, 2020, because he didn’t submit nomination forms to INEC, and didn’t participate in all stages of elections as required by Section 141 of Electoral Act and Section 285(13) of 1999 Constitution as amended.
Reacting to the judgment, Jerigbe counsel, Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, who was represented by Mr. Joe Oloko, said the judgement was a welcome development for deepening the roots of democracy in the country, especially as it related to intra-party democracy.
He said the judgement was very much in order because the Appeal court could not have overruled the superior courts that had declared Jarigbe candidate of the PDP and winner of the December 5, 2020 by-election.
With this judgement, Odey’s membership of the Senate is short lived because the Appeal court is the last appellate court that can adjudicate on appeals over judgements of election petitions tribunal on National Assembly matters.