The Court of Appeal, Abuja, on Monday nullified Godswill Akpabio’s election as the senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Akwa Ibom North West District.
The appellate court set aside a judgment of a Federal High Court, Abuja, which had ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to publish the former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Akpabio’s name as the APC candidate for the district as submitted by the party.
The Federal High Court judge, Emeka Nwite, had said that INEC “cannot choose and impose a candidate on a political party”.
The Appeal Court judgment, coming a few hours after a Federal High Court, in Uyo, nullified the Akwa Ibom APC governorship primary, stunned members and supporters of the APC in the state.
The Federal High Court, Uyo, said the APC governorship candidate, Akanimo Udofia, was not a member of the party, and therefore disqualified him from contesting a fresh governorship primary of the party.
Imo Akpan, a lawyer and chieftain of the APC in Akwa Ibom, confirmed the nullification of Mr Akpabio’s election in a Facebook post, Monday night.
“The Court of Appeal sitting at Abuja has declared Udom Ekpoudom as the duly elected Senatorial candidate of the APC for the 2023 Senatorial election for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
“In a unanimous decision, the Court in its wisdom held that the Senatorial primary held on May 27, 2022 was valid,” Mr Akpan, a member of the Akan Udofia/Victor Antai Governorship Campaign Council in Akwa Ibom, said in the social media post.
Why Appeal Court ruled against Akpabio
Channels TV reported that the judgement of the three-member panel of justices read by Justice Danlami Senchi held that Mr Akpabio failed to file a proof of arguments within the time provided by the rules.
Mr Ekpoudom, a retired deputy inspector general of police, was recognised by INEC as the validly elected candidate of the APC for the district, having participated and won the APC primary held on 27 May.
But the APC leadership, both at the state and national, preferred Mr Akpabio as their candidate, after the former minister “won” another senatorial primary that was hurriedly organised by a faction of the party in the state.
According to the Channels TV report, the Appeal Court panel ruled that Mr Akpabio, who was a presidential aspirant of the APC, could not have participated in the valid primary of the party held on 27 May and monitored by INEC, which produced Mr Ekpoudom as a candidate.
“The judgments of their noble lords, as shocking as they are, are a further testament to the fact that our judicial institutions must be strengthened and insulated from undue interference by extraneous forces. It must be our collective decision to ensure judicial independence for the common good.
“Be that as it may, the leadership of the party is reviewing the judgments and their varied ramifications with the legal team and shall communicate its decision on the next line of action soon,” the APC chieftain, Mr Akpan, said of the Appeal Court judgment and that of the Federal High Court, Uyo.