It all started after the death of the late Senator Rose Oko who represented Cross River North Senatorial District before her which called for the vacant seat she left behind to be filled to complete the remaining part of her tenure.
It was in the quest to fill the vacant seat that the former chairman of Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board, Dr Stephen Adi Odey who is now the sitting senator and Hon. Agom Jarigbe Agom who is presently a member of the House of Representatives representing Ogoja/Yala constituency, commenced their campaigns for the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP primary election was held on September 5, 2020 preparatory to the December 5, 2020 by-election in line with the directive of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
According to INEC’s announced primary result, Odey won with 450 votes, while Jarigbe scored 90 votes. This made Odey the PDP candidate. However, Jarigbe rejected the result and went to the Federal High Court, Port-Harcourt to challenge the outcome of the primary election with the suit marked: PHC/CS/137/200. The case was later transferred to the Calabar division of the Federal High Court and renumbered: FHC/CA/CS/105/2020.
The Federal High Court in Calabar delivered its judgements on both cases on December 3, 2020 affirming Odey as the authentic PDP candidate, while it struck out Jarigbe’s case for want of jurisdiction.
Odey was declared the winner by INEC, following which he was sworn in on December 16, 2020 at the senate as the senator representing Cross River North senatorial district. The next day, the Court of Appeal in Abuja upheld an order made by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja directing INEC to accept Jarigbe as the candidate of the PDP for the same election.
Odey in the appeal marked: SC/CV/9/2021 prayed the court to set aside portions of the judgement delivered by the Court of Appeal, Abuja on December 17, 2020 voiding his candidacy and in his place, naming Jarigbe as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Justice Centus Chima Nweze, who read the lead majority judgement in the legal battle, held that the notice of appeal filed by Odey marked: SC/CV/9/2021 was defective because it did not reflect the personal addresses of the first and second respondents in the appeal, Jarigbe and John Alaga.
The apex court had in a split decision of four to three, given the verdict while ruling on who between Senator Stephen Adi Odey and Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe is the authentic PDP candidate in the December 5, 2020 by-election but no declarative order was given in the ruling.
Senator Stephen Odey who said he was sworn-in in line with the Electoral Act noted that Jarigbe did not participate in all the stages of the election as required by the Electoral Act, which according to him did not give Jarigbe right to challenge the election process.
He noted that the Supreme Court ‘preliminary objections’ ruling did not affect his position as senator.
However, Hon Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe is asking the senate president, Ahmad Lawan, to immediately inaugurate him as the duly elected senator for Cross River North. He also wants the senate leadership to stop his opponent, Stephen Odey, who has been attending plenary and made member of several senate committees including Senate Committee on Education (Basic and Secondary); Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; Committee on Marine Transport; Committee on Environment; Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes; Committee on Interior; Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGD); Committee on Aviation; and Committee on Diaspora and NGO from being accorded the rights and privileges of a senator.
Many stakeholders of Cross River North told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the ongoing legal battle is distracting Odey from doing his job of effective representation of the senatorial district and have called for an amicable resolution of the impasse by leaders of the PDP in Cross River State.
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