Concerns mount over Saraki’s delay to swear-in Bassey Etim

Bassey Etim

Civil society activists and lawyers have called on the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to obey the Federal High Court judgement of February 27, 2017 that ordered the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East in the National Assembly, Bassey Akpan, to vacate his seat immediately.

This is coming few weeks after the Senate President swore-in a new senator who won a court judgment arising from a pre-election dispute similar to that of Bassey Etim and the embattled Senator Albert Akpan.

Cosmas Akpumakundu and Torchukwu Onyekwere, at different occasions condemn Saraki for interfering with the administration of judicial system and infringement on the power of the court and that of the electorate.

According to the lawyers, Section 52 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 7 of the Senate Standing Rules stipulate that  all that is required before the Senate president in the administration of oath of office on a senator-elect is just certificate of return and evidence of asset declaration, as in the extant case where Etim had been duly issued with certificate of return.

“National Assembly therefore needs no legal advice to swear in Etim when there is a valid judgement of a court arising from a pre-election dispute.”

Akpumakundu while condemning the Senate for its action, bemoaned the selective swear-in of senators by Saraki as setting  a bad precedent and further described the development as dangerous for the sustenance of nascent democracy.

Onyekwere said, “It is unfortunate that Saraki is disobeying the orders of the same institution that cleared him of his false assets declaration charges before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

Also, a constitutional lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Barrister Reuben  Egwuaba, said Saraki’s action is in flagrant disobedience to law and order.

According to him, “the refusal of the Senate President to swear-in Etim, who has a similar matter with that of Senator Shuaibu Lau of Taraba State and Attai Aidoko of Kogi state, is a sad moment of our democracy.”

The Federal High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, had in a sitting on February 27, 2017 ordered the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East in the National Assembly, Bassey Akpan to vacate his seat immediately.

The court presided over by Justice Fatun Riman, asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return it issued to Akpan and awarded N200,000 costs in favour of the plaintiff, Mr Bassey Etim.

The presiding judge also ordered INEC to issue a new Certificate of Return to Etim and the National Assembly to swear-in the plaintiff as a senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East in the National Assembly.

But after several appeals to the  Senate and also a letter from the Minister for Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, directing the Senate to swear-in Etim, the court order is yet to be complied with by the Senate President.

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