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Tension In Cross Rivers Over Eligibility Suit

Edem Edem in Calabar reports on the tension that has griped Southern Senatorial District of Cross River over a suit at the Federal High Court in Calabar, which has been instituted by the Special Assistant to Governor challenging the suitability of Senator-elect, Chief Gershom Bassey

All was quite in the Southern Senatorial District front of Cross River State until weekend when the unexpected happened. For the past few weeks it was celebration galore, especially by the Peoples Democratic Party as well as supporters of Senator-elect Mr Gershom Bassey after the INEC declared him winner in the March 28 poll. But by the weekend, anxiety and suspense appears to have replaced joy, particularly because the source of trouble is from within the PDP.Former Special Assistant to Governor Liyel Imoke on Political Affairs, Mr Emmanuel Ironbar has decided to challenge Bassey’s mandate.

He has instituted a suit at the Calabar Federal High Court presided over by Justice Emmanuel Obile. He is challenging the eligibility of the now Senator-elect of Cross River Southern District, Mr. Gershom Bassey of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the just concluded polls. The Plaintiff in a suit No FHC/CA/CS/19/2015 with the Senator-elect and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the first and second Defendants respectively is praying the Court for the determination of four questions as it sought three declarations thereof. According to the original summons, the Plaintiff sought thus: whether the failure and/or refusal of the first Respondent to present the Certificate of his National Youth Service to the Second Respondent, having claimed in his Form C.F. 001 to have graduated from the University of Wales, Cardiff in 1984 at the age of twenty-two (22) years, renders him ineligible to contest for the office of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Whether the failure and/or refusal of the first Respondent to present himself to the mandatory National Youth Service Corps pursuant to the provisions of the Section 2 of the National Youth Service Corps Act, 2004 is in violation of the provisions of the Act and punishable under Section 13(1)(a) of the Act”. Furthermore, “whether the letter dated October 29, 2014 purportedly written by the Officers of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and addressed to the Company Secretary of the Cross River State Water Board Limited and marked as “Confidential” constitutes an evidence of the 1st Respondent’s education up to Secondary School Level as required by the provisions of Section 65(2)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It is the believe of the Plaintiff that, “if the three questions are answered in the positive:” whether or not this Honourable Court is entitled to declare the Nomination and Candidacy of the 1st Respondent to contest for the office of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Cross River State Southern Senatorial District, null and void. The Plaintiff had earlier deposed to an affidavit in support of the originating summons in part, “that as an informed and concerned citizen of the Senatorial District, “I have developed particular interest in the quality and integrity of persons seeking to represent us under any political party platform, so as to ensure quality representation for me and any other constituents and deliver infrastructural development like roads, water etc that will be of direct benefit to me and my family members.

The affidavit also averred “that due investigation at the 2nd Respondent’s office in respect of candidates seeking to hold elective offices in my area, it was revealed that the 1st Defendant is not in any way eligible to contest for the relevant Senatorial seat”. Bassey is not taking matters low. As the first defendant, he has replied in a counter affidavit that “save and except as is herein after expressly admitted, I deny each and every paragraph of the Plaintiff’s affidavit in support of his originating summons”.

“I am a holder of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), School Certificate having sat for and passed, in Division One, the West African Schools Certificate Examination conducted by the West African Examination’s Council in May/ June 1977 at Federal Government College, Sokoto. Shown to me and marked “Exhibit GHB” is a copy of the Statement of Result issued to me by the then School Principal after the release of the result”. The counter affidavit also stated, “ I could not   present the Original of the WAEC Certificate to the 2nd Defendant because as at the time I went to Federal Government College, Sokoto for the original Certificate, all the yet to be claimed Certificates from the date of inception of the College to 1986 were gutted by fire”.

According to the Bassey: “the confirmed result by the examining body, WAEC, tallies with my result   contained in the Master Sheet of the College a copy of which was made available to me. Shown to me and marked EXHIBIT GHB is a Certified copy of a page of the Federal Government College, Sokoto, WAEC Master sheet shown my name and scores in the said May/June 1977 examination. Just as the two members of the PDP were literally washing their dirty linens in the public, the state branch of the party decided to wade into the matter.

When the pre-election suit first came up for mentioning on March 24, 2015 and later adjourned to April 17, 2015, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) argued on an application to be joined in the suit as a stakeholder and the sponsor of the Senator-elect who received his Certificate of Return on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.

Interestingly, the further hearing on the suit was adjourned to May 25, 2015 for the counsels to argue on the joiner application as the legal tango continues. In the meantime, the earlier joy for the party has turned into an uncertainty for most of the constituents in the affected Senatorial District. The tension is palpable as many are not too sure of the outcome of the legal tussle.

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