- Writes Federal High Court Chief Judge, NJC over the secret meeting, wants him stopped from sitting on the case
A former member of House of Representatives and Senator-elect for Akwa Ibom North East in the Senate, Hon Bassey Etim, on Monday wrote the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, alleging that his opponent, Senator Albert Akpan who was sacked from the senate last week on the order of a high court had held a secret meeting with a Federal high court judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba during which they plotted how his swearing-in would be scuttled.
Etim who did a separate petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC) on the issue is urging the Chief Judge of the Federal high court to quickly intervene in his case before a dangerous scandal capable of destroying further the integrity of the judiciary hits him in the face.
It would be recalled that a federal high court sitting in Uyo had last week Monday nullified the emergence of Hon Bassey Albert Akpan as senator representing Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial Zone in the National Assembly and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Akpan and re-issue same to Hon Bassey Etim, being the true and bonafide candidate of the PDP who won the senatorial election in Akwa Ibom North East.
The trial judge, had among several declaratory and injunctive reliefs also ordered the sacked legislator, Alber Akpan to refund to the coffers of the National Assembly all the monies he had collected by way of salary and allowances since he took the seat as senator representing Akwa Ibom North East in the National Assembly.
As if he was expecting the loss at the high court, Senator Albert had filed a notice of appeal at the registry of the Calabar division of the Court of Appeal that same day the judgment was given against him to challenge the verdict.
The notice of appeal was accompanied with an application to stay execution of the Uyo court judgment which sacked him from office and restrained the National assembly from swearing in Bassey Etim pending hearing and determination of his appeal. .
Senator Akpan also filed another application before the same Federal high court sitting in Uyo which sacked him with a request to stay execution of its judgment against him and stop the National Assembly from swearing in the judicially declared senator elect, Hon Bassey Etim.
Two days after , Senator Akpan mobilised his lawyers again to approach a Federal high court sitting in Abuja with an originating summon seeking among others a stay of execution of the judgment of the Uyo division of the Federal high court which removed him from office and another order restraining the National assembly from swearing in his opponent, Hon Bassey Etim in his place.
The latest lawsuit was filed last week Wednesday evening, purportedly few minutes after 5:00pm and same was assigned to Justice Nnamdi Dimgba who sat on the case and issued an order summoning the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to appear before him on Wednesday to show cause why the order restraining it from issuing certificate of return to Bassey Etim should not be granted.
Although section 75 of the Electoral Act 2010 gave a maximum of 24 hours to INEC to act on the order of the high court to issue the certificate of return, the order is yet to be complied with.
Justice Dimgba had already fixed Wednesday to hear out INEC with a view to determining whether or not to grant the order staying the execution of the Uyo verdict and stop the National Assembly from swearing in Senator Bassey Etim.
But about 48 hours to the hearing of the case, Hon Bassey Etim fired a petition to the Chief Judge of the Federal high court, Justice Auta to look at the cases so far filed and come to conclusion whether the originating summons filed before the Abuja federal high court does not amount to forum shopping and therefore an abuse of court process.
Etim who also did a similar petition to the NJC alleged that information at his disposal was to the effect that his opponent, senator Akpan met with justice Nnamdi Dimgba who allegedly advised him to file the fresh suit at the Federal high court and ensured that he omitted his name from the suit.
He alleged that during the purported secret meeting between Senator Akpan and justice Dimgba, he said they allegedly plotted how they would scuttle his swearing-in.
He further alleged that both Senator Akpan and justice Dimgba had trotted the same path before even as he urged Justice Auta to intervene to avoid any further damage to the integrity of the judiciary, particularly the Federal high court bench.
The letter written to Justice Auta and signed by Hon Bassey Etim reads:
“In the Federal High Court Uyo, I was the Plaintiff in the Suit No FHC/UY/CS/1087/2015 wherein I sued Independent National Electoral Commission, Peoples Democratic Party and Mr. Bassey Albert Akpan, wherein I won the matter.
“Judgment was delivered on 27th February, 2017 wherein the Court ordered, among others, that the Certificate of Returns should be issued to me by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Copies of the judgment and the enrolled Court Order are hereby attached.
“The 3rd defendant Appellant (Senator Akpan) promptly filed notice of Appeal against the judgment and also filed an application for stay of execution against the said judgment.
“Sir, the essence of the motion for stay of execution is to prevent Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from issuing Certificate of Return to me and to prevent National Assembly from swearing me in as a Senator.
“The Application for stay of execution is yet to be heard at the Federal High Court, Uyo.
Soon after the judgment was delivered on the 27th of February, 2017 Senator Bassey Albert Akpan gathered his supporters and informed them that he had seen Hon Justice Nnamdi Dimgba and he (Justice Nnamdi) advised him to file a new suit, and in that new suit he should not join me as a party.
“Indeed, Senator Albert Bassey Akpan proceeded to file a new suit with registration number FHC/ABJ/CS/157/2017 at the Federal high court, Abuja in which I was not made a party. The suit is seeking to achieve the same purpose as the application for stay of execution before the Federal High Court Uyo, which clearly shows an abuse of Court process.
“Despite all the above position highlighted, it is shocking to me and everyone that on Friday the 3rd of March, 2017, your Judge in Court No 11, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba gave an order exparte against the Independent National Electoral Commission asking it to show cause why an order restraining it (INEC) from issuing Certificate of Return to me should not be made, and the matter was adjourned to 8th of March, 2017 for hearing
“The case was allegedly filed at 5pm as appended by your registrar after the close of registry, an order exparte was issued on Friday 3/3/2017 barely after 24 hours the case was filed. I wonder if the Honourable Chief Judge indeed assigned the matter to Hon. Justice Dimbga. All these raise suspicion that the judge has been compromised in the matter.
“I can’t be comfortable appearing before the Court. In addition Sir, all cases concerning Mr. Albert Akpan find their way to the same court whose presiding judge has always given him favourable decision. For instance, in suit No FHC/CS/131/16 between Emma Obot and Mr. Bassey Albert and others over the same subject matter of the instant suit being the candidacy of the Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District, it will be of interest to my lord to note that the present suit before Justice Dimgba contrary to all known legal practice of Law in Nigeria is seeking to stay the execution of judgment of a fellow judge, (Court of coordinate jurisdiction). It is also surprising that the subject matter of this suit happened in Akwa Ibom contrary to your practice direction.
“In the light of the above, Hon. Justice Dimgba knows or ought to know that he lacks jurisdiction to have issued the order of last Friday.
“Kindly intervene to avoid judicial anarchy, especially at this time that the judicial integrity is on trial,” he signed off.