Cross River North Senatorial: Jarigbe’s fate hangs, as Court of Appeal reviews Odey’s sack

The hope of Honourable Agom Jarigbe ascending to the upper chamber of the National Assembly seems to be hanging following the decision of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to hear two separate applications seeking a review of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Calabar, which had declared him winner of the December 5, 2020 Bye-Election for Cross River North Senatorial District.

Jarigbe is hoping to be sworn in as a Senator representing Cross River North Senatorial District come September 14, when the National Assembly Resumes from its annual recess, however, he will have to await the determination of two separate appeals  against his return by the Court of Appeal, Calabar.  

A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, Calabar led by Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme, had on July 30, 2021, ordered the sack of Odey in a judgment on an appeal by Chief Joe Agi, SAN and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The panel delivering judgments in a consolidated appeal challenging the decision of the National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal delivered on June 18, 2021, subsequently ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue Mr Agom Jarigbe certificate of return which the court held was wrongly withdrawn from Jarigbe.

The three appeals are; CA/C/NAEA/SEN/167/2021, CA/C/NAEA/SEN/168/2021, and CA/C/NAEA/SEN/169/2021.

However, dissatisfied with the decision of the three-man panel which is the last court for National and States House of Assembly election matters, two aggrieved parties in the matter has approached the appellate court for a review of its judgment.

In the first appeal with number CA/C/195/2021 filed on August 4, 2021, the appellants/applicants (Joe Agi and APC) are praying the court for an order to amend, correct and / or set aside the order of the court on INEC “to issue the certificate of return wrongly withdrawn from the 2nd respondent”, Agom Jarigbe.

They are also praying for another order to set aside the order of the appellate court made on July 30, which dismissed their appeal against the election of Odey for lacking in merit.

In the second appeal marked CA/C/199/2021, filed on August 6, 2021, the first respondent (Stephen Odey), is urging the appellate court to set aside its own judgment in the consolidated appeal, which allowed the appeal of Jarigbe in suit number CA/C/NAEA/SEN/169/2021, which declared Jarigbe as the winner of the Bye-Election for the Cross River North Senatorial District of Cross River State.

However, hearing in the two motions was on Tuesday stalled following claims by the second respondent that he has not been served with the court processes.

In a short ruling Justice A. D. Yahaya, who led four other justices of the appellate court ordered service of the court processes on the second respondents in court and subsequently fixed Thursday August 12, for definite hearing.

Other members of the five-man panel include; Justices Stephen Adah, Olabisi Ige, A. Umar and D. Z. Senchi.

 Recall that the National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal presided by Justice Yusuf Mohammad in a judgment had ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return earlier issued to Jarigbe and issue same to Odey.

But the appellate court set aside the decision of the Tribunal, saying it was wrong to order the withdrawal of the certificate of return earlier issued to Jarigbe.

As a result, it invalidated the certificate of return issued to Senator Odey by INEC and directed the electoral empire to withdraw it.

The court, however, noted that there was no merit in the appeal marked CA/C/NAEA/SEN/167/2021, (filed by Agi) as all the issues raised had been resolved against the appellants.

It added that although the three appeals were consolidated, the appeals marked CA/C/NAEA/SEN/167/2021 and CA/C/NAEA/SEN/168/2021 were dismissed accordingly.

The appellate court, however, allowed the appeal marked CA/C/NAEA/SEN/169/2021, and made no order as to cost.