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Monday, October 2, 2023

A’Ibom senatorial tussle: PDP lawyer writes IGP on alleged threat to life

The Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District seat tussle at the National Assembly has taken another twist as a lawyer in the legal unit of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Barrister Ochai Jacob Otokpa, has written the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, alleging threat to his life by Senator Bassey Albert Akpan.

Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki

Otokpa, in the letter, said the threat to his life is due to a process he filed in court to discontinue an appeal by PDP against a judgment of the Federal High Court in Uyo, which sacked him (Akpan) from office.

Akpan is the senator “illegally” recognised by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to represent Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District at the National Assembly against the decision of a Federal High Court in Uyo, delivered since February 27, 2017. The court judgment ordered the Senate to swear-in Mr. Bassey Etim as the Senator-elect to represent the said district.

Otokpa, who is a legal assistant to the National Legal Adviser of the PDP, alleged in a petition filed on his behalf by Firma Nexus Chambers dated September 25, 2017 and received at the headquarters of the Nigerian  Police on September 28, 2017, that Senator Akpan invaded his office with thugs, locked him up in the inner office of the National Legal Adviser of the PDP and harassed him, took a picture of him with his phone and threatened to take his life should he lose his seat at the National Assembly.

Otokpa said he does not understand why a lawmaker would engage in such an act when he was only doing what he was authorised to do by his employer.

The petition reads: “It is our client’s brief that, on Tuesday, 19th September, 2017, at about 4:00pm, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan invaded the office of the National legal Adviser of the party (PDP) at the National Secretariat, Wadata Plaza, with thugs numbering between four and six in apparent attempt to injure or assassinate our client.

“It is our client’s brief that Senator Bassey Albert Akpan entered the inner office of the National Legal Adviser and our client was called to come in and when our client entered, Senator Akpan asked our client if he is Barr Ochai and our client answered in the affirmative.

“Immediately, Senator Bassey Akpan took picture of our client with his phone and locked the door, put the key in his pocket and started assaulting our client, threatening to kill him for carrying out the lawful instruction given to him to file notice of withdrawal of the appeal of the party.

“In fear for his life, our client upon appreciating the hostile intention of Senator Bassey Albert Akpan started screaming and shouting out to those in the outer office and succeeded in raising sufficient alarm that drew and alerted the people in the outer office as to what was about to happen to our client. Those in the outer office hit the door repeatedly, asking Senator Bassey Albert Akpan to open but he refused.

“The security operatives attached to the National Secretariat of the party were contacted and as they responded to our client’s shout for help, Senator Bassey Akpan opened the door saying that the National Chairman of the party was calling him.

“While he locked our client and thereby unlawfully restraining him, Senator Bassey Akpan issued threats to our client that our client’s life depends on the outcome of the appeals in court and that should he lose the case in the court leading to loss of his seat in the senate, he (Senator Akpan) will make sure our client loses his life.

“He boasted repeatedly  that he has the requisite financial, political and positional capacity to ‘crush’ our client and that nothing will happen noting that he does not know the value of our client’s life that he cannot destroy it and go unscathed.

“It is our client’s further brief that while he was leaving the office, one of the thugs brought by Senator Akpan confronted our client and told him to be praying for Senator Akpan to win the court case and retain his seat in the senate and that in the event that Senator Bassey Akpan loses the case, our client will be a dead man, adding that ever since, he had been noticing strange people and cars trailing him and that his car had once been burgled while sensitive documents were carted away,” the petition further read.

The PDP had recently requested the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar to dismiss its appeal lodged against a judgment of the Federal High Court, Uyo, which sacked Albert Akpan from the National Assembly and declared Bassey Etim as lawful replacement.

The party said the judgment of the Federal High Court in Uyo, which sacked Akpan from the Senate for not being its authentic candidate for the 2015 Akwa Ibom senatorial election, was not against its interest, hence, unnecessary and ought not to have been filed in the first place.

In the notice of discontinuance of the appeal, the PDP told the appellate court thus: “Take notice that the Appellant (PDP) hereby withdraws all the processes including the Notice of Appeal  and the brief of argument filed by the erstwhile counsel for the party.”

The decision of the PDP under the leadership of Senator Ahmed Makarfi  to withdraw the appeal, it was learnt, was in the spirit of on-going reconciliation in the party and its dogged commitment to bring sanity into the party as it prepares itself for the 2019 general poll in the country.

The background of the unfolding event is that a Federal High Court sitting in Uyo had on February 27, 2017, in a judgment, booted out Mr. Bassey Albert Akpan from the National Assembly.

This development was after the court gave a verdict that Mr. Akpan was not the valid and bona fide 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 judgment on a pre-election dispute between a former member of House of Representatives, 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 span of the current 8th National Assembly is 1,460 days, commencing from June 9, 2015 when it was inaugurated, to expire June 9, 2019.

The court consequently ordered Akpan to vacate forthwith the seat for the bona fide PDP candidate, Bassey Etim, for the remaining 812 days, and refund to the coffers 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 occupied the seat in the Senate.

The court also 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 however, refused to obey the judgment of the Federal High Court, Uyo, which directed him to inaugurate Bassey Etim to begin to perform the functions of his office.

Also, a legal advice was issued from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), which counseled him to swear in Hon Bassey Etim since there was no stay of execution to stop the implementation of the valid and subsisting high court judgment.

The Senate President had said that he had sent the judgment of the court to the legal department of the National Assembly for legal advice on what to do.

By Chinyere Obia

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