The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has said it is no longer news that the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, the Final Court in National Assembly Election Petition cases, in its judgement delivered on Saturday 4th November, 2023, on Petition No. EPT/AB/SEN/02/2023, voided the return of Darlington Nwokocha of the Labour Party as winner of the Abia Central Senatorial District election by INEC and declared Col Austin Akobundu rtd of the PDP as the authentic winner of the election.
The party made this known in a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba.
The statement rea din part, “As you may recall, the judgment of the Court of Appeal elicited spontaneous jubilation not only in Abia Central Senatorial District, but also in the entire Abia State and various parts of our nation; a signal that it is in tandem with the Will and aspiration of the people of Abia Central at the February 25, 2023 National Assembly election in the State.
“However, our Party the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has uncovered a surreptitious plot by certain top leaders in the All Progressives Congress (APC) to pressure the Court of Appeal for a review and reversal of the Court’s judgment wherein it declared PDP’s Col Austin Akobundu(rtd) as the rightful winner of Abia Central Senatorial District election.
“We have also been made aware of pressure on the President of the Senate, Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio to undermine the judgement of the Court and stand down the swearing in of Senator-elect Austin Akobundu.
“Information at our disposal indicate that this furtive plot against the Justices of the Court of Appeal and indeed the Institution of the Judiciary came as a result of a secret pledge allegedly by Darlington Nwokocha to join the APC if the said APC leaders succeed in intimidating, cajoling and coercing the Court of Appeal to review its final judgement, overule itself and return him to the Senate.
“Part of the plot was the recent hiring, at huge costs, of some misguided members of the public to abuse, insult and accuse the Appeal Court.
“There are also allegations that large sums of money have been paid to emissaries in an attempt to blackmail, coerce and mount pressure on the Lord Justices to reverse the Judgment even when it is clear by our laws that the judgment is final and that the Court of Appeal has become Functus Officio in the matter.
“The PDP in very strong terms condemns this despicable act of desperation and unpardonable assault on the Institution of the Judiciary in utter and flagrant abuse of Court Process for selfish reasons that amount to a wild goose chase.
“For emphasis, the pronouncement of the Court of Appeal as a Court of Final adjudication in the matter is clear in ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Darlington Nwokocha, the same having been voided; and issue a fresh Certificate of Return to Col Austin Akobundu rtd as the authentic winner of the election.
“For the avoidance of doubt, by virtue of Section 246(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the decisions of the Court of Appeal in respect of States and National Assembly election matter shall be final.
“The Supreme Court, with regards to Section 246(3) 1999 Constitution, had since held in the case of Ekwunife vs Victor Umeh, that “the decision of Court of Appeal is Final. Once the Court of Appeal delivers its judgement on a National Assembly Election Petition Appeal, the judgement becomes Final. There must be an end to Litigation”.
“Moreover, the pursuit of a review by Darlington Nwokocha is a futile venture as he would be asking the Court of Appeal to do the impossible given that there is no window within the Constitutional lifespan of the Court of Appeal Panel for such.
“The Supreme Court had since held in the case of Mohammed Buba Marwa Vs Admiral Murtala Nyako Sc/141/2011 delivered in January 2012 that the time fixed by the Constitution is like the Rock of Gibratar or Mount Zion which cannot be moved; that it cannot be expanded or elongated or anyway enlarged.
“The PDP calls on the Senate President, Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio, being an experienced lawyer and legislator not to allow anybody to drag the Senate, a prominent Institution of Democracy which he leads, into an unnecessary and avoidable conflict with the express pronouncement and Order of the Court of Appeal and the provisions of the Constitution.
“The Senate President must protect the integrity of the Senate as a law-abiding institution by swearing in Senator-elect Col Austin Akobundu as ordered by the Court of Appeal, being the Final Court in the matter.
“The PDP again congratulates Senator-elect Col Austin Akobundu on this victory for democracy and the Will of the people which he represents, bearing in mind that he will bring to bear his capacity, experience and competence for outstanding quality and people-centered representation in the Senate.
“Our Party commends the Institution of the Judiciary with particular reference to this matter, for its courage in upholding the provision of the law.”