By MBACHU GODWIN NNANNA,
A former Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Samuel Omotunde Ilori has dismissed as ridiculous, untenable and contemptuous the refusal by Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki to swear in Hon Bassey Etim as senator representing Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District in the upper chamber of the National Assembly as ordered by a competent court of jurisdiction.
The cerebral judge said the senate president is not at liberty to seek advice on a positive order of the court.
A Federal high court sitting in Uyo had booted out Mr. Bassey Albert Akpan from the National Assembly.
That was after the court found that Mr. Akpan was not the valid and bonafide candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which won the 2015 general election for the Akwa Ibom North East senatorial seat. The high court, in the judgement on a pre-election dispute between a
former member of House of Representatives, Hon Bassey Etim and Senator Akpan over who between them was the authentic candidate of the PDP for
the senatorial seat, specifically held that Akpan had wrongly and illegally represented the Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District in the National Assembly for 628 days.
The life span of the current 8th National Assembly is 1,460 commencing from June 9, 2015 when it was inaugurated, to expire June 9, 2019.
The trial Federal high court consequently ordered Akpan to vacate forthwith the seat for the bonafide candidate of the PDP, Hon Bassey Etim for the remaining 812 days, and refund to the coffer of the National Assembly, within 90 days, all monies he had collected by way
of salary and allowances for the 628 days during which he illegally occupied the seat in the senate.
Besides, the court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to retrieve the certificate of return earlier issued to Akpan and issue a fresh one to the newly declared senator-elect, Mr Bassey Etim, to enable him proceed to the senate for his swearing-in.
INEC had since complied with the court order as it issued the certificate of return to Bassey Etim.
But the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki had refused to inaugurate Bassey Etim to begin to perform the functions of his office. Defending his position, Saraki said: “There’s a process to this and when I get this I always get informed. There are always two sides to a story; I have a senator who says this is the case.”
“I referred the case to the legal unit to give me a clear advice on this, and once they advise me, I will comply.
“ I have explained that to the senator that I have no interest; I want the people of Akwa Ibom, which Senator Akpan represents, to have a representation. I don’t gain anything in it.
“I will follow it and I will make it happen,” he said.
But reacting to the position of Senate President, former Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Ilori said it was unbelievable that the nation’s senate president would say that he needed legal advice before he could obey a positive judgement of a court.
He said he would not believe that Dr Bukola Saraki actually put up such defence for refusing to swear in Bassey Etim.