Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday withdrew from a suit challenging the removal of the Senator representing Akwa Ibom East Senatorial zone, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan.
The Judge said he took the decision over an offensive publications by an online news portal that accused him of being biased in the matter.
When the matter came up Friday, Justice Dimgba told parties that he was withdrawing from the matter based on the said publication, which he said disparaged his person and insinuated personal interest following the conduct of proceedings on the 8th of March, 2017.
Dimgba had at that proceedings threatened to withdraw from the matter following the negative publication, which counsel to Senator Akpan and those of INEC and Bassey Etim denied knowledge of the said publication.
“I denied all insinuations of what transpired on March 8th, 2017”, Justice Dimgba said and adjourned the matter till Friday, March 24, 2017, but added that, “in the event of further resolution on the said publication, I may decide to disqualify myself from hearing of the suit and hand over the case file to the Chief Judge for re-assignment.”
The Judge held that even though he acknowledged the apologies of counsel in the matter, he said it will be better for him to withdraw from the matter.
He said if he decides to take the motion and the objections and found them meritorious and strikes them out, the plaintiff will say he has succumbed to the blackmail of the defendants and if, on the other hand, he handled the matter and give judgment, one way or the other, the plaintiff will say that he has played in line with the plaintiff.
“I think, the best thing to do, is to withdraw from this matter and return the case file to the Chief Judge for re-assignment to another Judge”, he said.
Recall that Senator Akpan’s election, a serving Senator, was nullified on February 27, 2017, and consequently sacked from the Senate by a Federal High Court sitting in Uyo.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was ordered to issue certificate of return to Bassey Etim as winner of the National Assembly election held in the state.
Dissatisfied with the judgment, Akpan approached the Federal High Court, Abuja with an ex-parte application seeking interim preservatory orders against INEC, the Senate President, Clerk of the National Assembly and Clerk of the Senate, who are 1st to 4th defendants respectively in the suit.
Justice Dimgba ordered that, “the defendants/respondents should appear on the 8th of March 2017 to show cause why the interim preservatory orders as sought by the plaintiff/applicant should not be granted”.
Akpan had on March 3, 2017 sought an “order of interim injunction restraining the 1st defendant/respondent (INEC) from regarding the actions taken by it relating to the Senatorial election in Akwa Ibom East as nullity, treating the certificate of returns issued to the plaintiff/applicant in respect of that election as a nullity and/or issuing any certificate of return to any other person to replace the plaintiff/applicant merely on the basis of the judgment of this court delivered on February 27, 2017 in suit No. FHC/UY/CS/1087/2015 whilst the plaintiff/applicant pursues his appeal validly filed within time against the said judgment of this Honourable Court and seek it’s stay of execution, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
“An order of interim injunction restraining the 2nd to 4th defendants/respondents from in any manner whatsoever debarring the plaintiff/applicant from his duties as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or from access to facilities due to his office in the National Assembly merely because of adverse judgment against him delivered on the 27th February, 2017 in suit No.FHC/UY/CS/1087/2015 whilst the plaintiff/applicant pursues his appeal validly filed within time against the said judgment of this Honourable Court and seek it’s stay of execution, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
At a resumed hearing of the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/157/2017, Richard Oluyede, counsel to Senator Akpan informed the court that the action was not a rehash of the judgment of the Federal High Court Uyo, one anchored on the provisions of Section 143 of the Electoral Act and Section 66 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
Oluyede insisted that the matter basically seeks to know, based on Section 143 of the Electoral Act if a person in a pre-election matter removed from office can be removed while an appeal has been validly entered.