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Celebration in Calabar as Court Declares Sen Bassey Otu Authentic APC Governorship Candidate for Cross River

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Two members of Senator Bassey Edet Otu’s legal team

Magnus Effiong

There was high celebration in Calabar, the Cross River State capital as a Federal High Court in the ancient city, Monday, declared Senator Bassey Edet Otu the authentic governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Cross River State after months of apprehension and tension.

Recall that one of the then aspirants in the May 2022 governorship primaries, Sen John Owan Enoh, had dragged the APC, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Sen Otu to court over the nomination and declaration of Otu as the party candidate.

Senator Owan-Enoh, in Suit No: FHC/CA/CS/95/2022, had sought, among other prayers, the  disqualification of Senator Otu, arguing that the Governorship Screening Committee of the APC had disqualified him from the race for purportedly failing to present his First School Leaving Certificate and West African Examination Council, WAEC, result during the screening.

But, delivering judgement on the matter, the presiding judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, held that contrary to Senator Owan-Enoh’s postulations, facts before the court indicated that Sen Otu was validly cleared to contest the primary by the National Working Committee, (NWC) of the party.

The court said the same NWC, which has the final say on clearance of aspirants, satisfied with Otu’s certificates so presented, mandated the National Organising Secretary of the party to write to and inform the Chairman of the primary election committee in Cross River over Otu’s clearance.She submitted that “the third defendant (Senator Bassey Edet Otu) whose clearance was declared inconclusive by the screening committee was finally cleared by the NWC.”

According to her, the matter of determination of gubernatorial candidate of a political party is and still remains the right of a political party.

On whether or not Sen Owan-Enoh had the right to have taken part in the primary election since, according to the defendants in the case, he had earlier withdrawn from the race, the court said the Senator’s withdrawal did not take away his right as a Nigerian citizen.

“A candidate contesting for the position of  governor must be a Nigerian, meet the stipulated age requirement and have basic qualification according to the constitution,” she stated.

However, Senator Owan Enoh, through his counsel, Barr Jacob Abang Dakim, who stood in for the lead counsel, Away Kalu, SAN, has vowed to appeal the judgement as soon as practiceable.

“We are filling an appeal immediately. If the preliminary objection could sit, I see no reason why the main case should not sit,’ he stated.

However, both the counsel to Senator Prince Bassey Otu, Mike Ozekhome SAN and the Chairman of the party in the State, Barr Alphonsus Eba, described the judgment as victory for democracy and the party.

Barr Benson Igbano, who held briefs for Ozekhome, said “This is victory for democracy and not for Prince Otu as a person. The matter was a family affars. It is time to go back to the drawing board and forge ahead as a united family.”

Barr Eba, on his part, noted that the matter was “just a storm in the tea cup,” explaining “everything we did was in conformity with the law.”

“Section 84, sub 1 of the Electoral Act is very clear on the mode of conducting primaries. Section 29 sub 1gives us powers to forward the name of the winner. We complied with all these.

“The court has dismissed the argument that was brought forth. This is victory for every member of our party and victory for democracy. This is a kind of judgement that you could say cannot be shaken or be removed just like the Mount Zion which abides forever.

” We will bring back all aggrieved members of our party. We will do our best not to allow any appeal over this. Back to South stands. PDP is just wasting its time,” he submitted.

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