JUST IN: Supreme Court affirms Akpabio as APC senatorial candidate in Akwa Ibom

The Supreme Court has affirmed the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District election billed for February 25, 2023.

The apex court, on Friday, January 20, 2023, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel of Justices, upheld an appeal Akpabio filed to challenge the Court of Appeal judgement that nullified his candidacy.

In the lead judgement that was read by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, the apex court, held that the appellate court lacked the jurisdiction to meddle in the issue of nomination of candidate for an election, which it said was within the purview of an internal affair of a political party.

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The apex court panel resolved 10 issues Akpabio raised before it in his favour and accordingly vacated the November 14, 2022 judgement of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to recognize Mr. Udom Ekpoudom as the authentic candidate of the APC for the senatorial contest.

According to the apex court, the lower court erred in law when it assumed jurisdiction in the internal matters of a political party.

The Supreme Court therefore set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and upheld the judgment of Justice Donatus Okorowo, which held that Akpabio was lawfully nominated by his party.

In a related development, the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division has set aside a Federal High Court ruling, which disqualified and barred Tonye Cole, the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, from the 2023 election.

A Federal High Court presided over by Justice Emmanuel Obile, had disqualified Cole because he has dual citizenship and the primary through which he emerged as a candidate was not monitored by INEC.

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The PDP had asked the Court to disqualify Cole in the suit filed against APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

While the APC challenged the ruling of the lower court, a three-man panel of appeal in a unanimous judgment, read by Justice Olabode Adegbehingbe, said the PDP lacked the locus standi to challenge APC, its Governorship Candidate and INEC on the conduct of the congresses and primary election that brought in their candidate.

On the issue of dual citizenship, the court said PDP lacked the legal standing to drag INEC to court in a pre-election matter.

Adegbehingbe noted that the earlier Supreme Court decision on the issue of citizenship on electoral matters is final.

Speaking on the judgement after the court sitting, one of the counsels for the APC, Chimenem Jerome, described the judgment as a water shield in Political jurisprudence.

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