A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar, on Friday, declared Mr. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe as the duly elected senator for the Cross River North senatorial district.
The panel headed by Justice Chioma I. Nwosu, held that Jarigbe, not Stephen Odey, was the lawful candidate of the PDP for the December 5, 2020 by-election.
Consequently, the jurists invalidated the certificate of return earlier issued to Odey by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC and directed that it be withdrawn.
The judgement invalidated the June 18, 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 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,” the court stated.
Stressing that the Appeal Court is bound by decisions of courts superior to the trial courts, the panel declared Jarigbe as the senator-elect for the senatorial zone.
The Appeal court also stated that the PDP held the primary that produced Odey in contempt of a court’s order which directed that only the authentic list of delegates for the nomination of candidates should be used.
In ordering INEC to issue a certificate of return to Jarigbe, the 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, Mr. Joe Agi, 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 recognised as the candidate of the PDP by the Supreme Court did not contest the election of December 5, 2020 because he neither submitted nomination forms to INEC nor 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, Jarigbe’s counsel. Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, who was represented by Mr. Joe Oloko, described the judgement as a “welcome development for deepening the roots of democracy in the country, especially as it relates to intra-party democracy.”
He said the judgement was 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 by-election.
With the judgement, Odey’s membership of the senate is truncated as the Appeal court is the last bus stop for petitions pertaining to national assembly elections.