Titus Akhigbe, Benin City
The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin on Monday nullified the election of Rep. Peter Akpatason of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a member of the House of Representatives for Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency of Edo state.
Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Kabiru Adjoto, had filed an appeal against the judgment of a lower court that held and declared Akpatason as the APC candidate in the February 23 National Assembly elections.
Adjoto claimed that he won the party’s primary held on October 18, 2018, but was denied the ticket by the party’s leadership which he alleged was also affirmed by the lower court.
Justice Moore Abraham-Adumein leading three other member of the tribunal, in his judgment, held that Rep. Akpatason was not the right candidate who emerged from the APC primary, hence he was not qualified to have contested for the March 9 National Assembly election in the first instance.
The tribunal subsequently, declared Adjoto, being the candidate who emerged from the party primaries as the rightful candidate for the Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency.
Also, the court nullified the decision of the APC’s National Assembly Primaries Election Appeals Committee headed by former Governor of Edo state, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor.
Justice Abraham-Adumein held that the trial court ought to have heard the case brought before it “since it is its duty to do so. The trial court, for reasons best known to it, failed or neglected to make any pronouncement on the live issue before it.”
He said the Osunbor committee was not properly constituted because the committee contravened Article 21 (b) of the APC guidelines, part of which said, “no member of the five member appeals committee shall be from the state of assignment” and so the committee ab initio ought not to have heard the case.
However, the judge said that referring the case back to the trial court would have been statute bared, but that having considered the evidences before the lower court which it did not consider. Adjoto won the primary election, as the returning officer, Sufiyanu Igbafe, declared that Adjoto scored 7, 034 votes as against his opponent, Peter Akpatason’s 5, 606 votes.
“This appeal is hereby unanimously allowed and the prayers sought by the appellant in the trial court are hereby granted and the sum of N300, 000 is hereby awarded as costs against the first and second respondents,” he ordered.
He said his two colleagues, Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme, who is the presiding justice and Justice Tunde Efotoye, agreed with the judgment.
However, counsel to Rep. Akpatason, Omoh-Ige Adebayo said they would contest the judgment at the Supreme Court, while an elated Adjoto said “the judiciary is not only the last hope of the common man, but also of the big man.”
Adjoto promised to give more representation to his people, more than he has given to them at the state house of assembly.