Justice Fadimatu Aminu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, declared the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s senatorial primary for Cross River Central, which produced the Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Eteng Jonah Williams as null and void.
Justice Aminu, in a suit brought by one of the aspirants, Barr. Mary Ekpere-Eta ordered a rerun within fourteen days. The court dismissed the 14 preliminary objections raised by the defendants and held that the primary election was not monitored by INEC.
Recall that, the former Director-General of the National Women Development Centre (NEDC) and an aspirant for the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Cross River Central Senatorial District, Barrister Mary Ekpere-Eta, had asked the Special Task Force handling electoral cases to declare her as the candidate of the party for the 2023 Senatorial elections in the area, citing irregularities.
Other irregularities cited by the plaintiff were that the election was conducted without some of the aspirants sighting any delegates list or register, and the venue of the election changed without notification to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), while denying delegates of the Plaintiff from the Local Government Areas and Area Council Congress of Abi, Yakurr, Obubra, Ikom, Etung, and Boki, access the venue of the primary election which constitute the six Local Governments of the Central Senatorial District of the State.
Ekpere-Eta had also sought the disqualification of Eteng Jonah Williams and Chief Akinwumi Anderson Rickets from participating in any rerun as may be ordered by the Court for the Cross River Central senatorial seat under APC.
Adopting her brief of arguments through her Counsel, Bankole Joel Akomolafe, the Plaintiff urged the Court to hold that the primary election of the Cross River Central Senatorial District of the APC conducted on the 28th May 2022 to elect its candidate is null, void and invalid having not been conducted following the extant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and the Constitution of the party.
Specifically, Ekpere-Eta had through her Counsel, Akomolafe, gone to the Federal High Court to determine whether or not by virtue of section 222(2) and section 228(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act Act 2022 and the Constitution of registered political parties, the 1st, and 4th defendants were in breach of sections 61(I)(f) and 65(2)(b) respectively of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), as at the time of the said primary election in their activities and conducts respectively.
She also sought the disqualification of Hon. Eteng Jonah Williams and Chief Akinwumi Anderson Rickets from participating in any rerun as may be ordered by the Court for the Cross Central Senatorial, conducted by the APC for reasons of their infractions of Sections 61(1f), 65(2b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) respectively having been disqualified to contest ab initio.
Or in the alternative, to declaring that the primary election of the Cross River Central Senatorial District of the APC conducted on May 28th, 2022 is null, void and invalid having not been conducted with the extant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and the Constitution of the Party.
She is asking for N25 million against the 1st Defendant as the damages and cost of action.
Cited in the suit as the 1st to the 4th defendants are Eteng Jonah Williams, the APC, INEC, and Chief Akimwumi Anderson Ricketts, respectively.
Reacting to the court judgment, the campaign organization of Hon. Williams in a statement stated that their principal has taken the news with typical equanimity and that his lawyers are making efforts to obtain and study the judgment before advising on the next line of action.
The statement read in part: “It is in the public domain that a Federal High Court in Abuja has nullified the election of our principal, Rt. Hon. Eteng Jonah Williams, Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the Cross River Central Senatorial District and ordered a rerun primary election within the next fourteen days.
“Rt. Hon. Eteng Williams has taken the news with his typical equanimity. Our lawyers are making efforts to obtain and study the judgment before advising on the next line of action. In the meantime, we urge our teeming supporters and well-meaning people of Cross River Central Senatorial District to remain calm and focused on the task of sending Rt. Hon. Eteng Williams to the Senate as our Senator come 2023.
“You will recall that in May 2022, the delegates of our party, the APC, overwhelmingly gave Rt. Hon. Eteng Williams the mandate to fly the flag of the Party as Senatorial candidate in a keenly and fairly contested primary election in the Ikom Township Stadium, Ikom, Cross River State. He won the primaries fair and square and was duly congratulated by his co-contestants, in a show of sportsmanship. Sadly, some of the contestants went on to institute court cases based on flimsy legal grounds. Nonetheless, the Court in its wisdom has delivered judgment. As a law-abiding citizen, Rt. Hon. Williams shall comply, under the counsel of his lawyers.
“We note the massive support our candidate enjoys wherever we have visited in the course of our campaigns, which had begun in earnest before this unfortunate setback. We are confident that Rt. Hon. Eteng Williams will still be your favored choice as a candidate in the event of a rerun, no matter the number of times you are asked to choose.
“On his part, our principal does not take your support for granted and has not relented in reminding you that he understands the developmental needs of Cross River Central Senatorial District and is well placed to deliver on them. He is running this race on the strength of his impressive record, both as a three-term legislator and as Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly.
“We call on you all to maintain your unwavering support and vigilance in ensuring that the right and popular choice of the people, in the person of Rt. Hon. Eteng Williams, emerges our Senator come 2023.”