Two groups of lawyers stormed the National Assembly on Tuesday to make counterclaims on the rightful occupant of the Akwa Ibom North-East senatorial district seat in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
Some lawyers under the aegis of the Coalition of Concerned Lawyers on the Akwa Ibom State North-East Senatorial District said the current occupant of the seat, Senator Bassey Akpan, had appealed his sacking by a court and should remain in office.
Those under the umbrellas of the Alliance of Human Rights Lawyers and Civil Society for Sustainable Rule of Law in Nigeria, however, asked the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, to swear-in the contender for the senatorial seat, Bassey Etim, as ordered by the court.
The Federal High Court sitting in Uyo had on February 27, 2017, sacked Akpan and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to issue a Certificate of Return to Etim as the candidate produced by the Peoples Democratic Party’s senatorial primary in Akwa Ibom North-East.
INEC had issued a fresh Certificate of Return to Etim on March 6, 2017, but he had yet to be inaugurated as a member of the Senate.
At the National Assembly on Tuesday, Mr. Charles Omang, who led 19 other members of the Coalition of Concerned Lawyers, insisted that Etim should not be sworn-in as the senator representing the district.
Omang, who read a communiqué signed by 20 lawyers to journalists, stated that the status quo be maintained as the ruling by the court had been appealed while citing Section 143 of the Electoral Act as allowing Akpan to remain in office.
The communiqué read in part, “We, the members of the Coalition of Concerned Lawyers, have followed recent events in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in respect to the Akwa Ibom North-East senatorial seat, and hereby state as follows:
“That we read with great consternation the letter purportedly written by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (Abubakar Malami, SAN), urging the Senate President to swear-in Bassey Etim when there are a valid appeal and a pending motion for stay of execution to be heard on the 12th and 14th of June 2017 by the Court of Appeal, Calabar Division.”
But the Alliance of Human Rights Lawyers and Civil Society for Sustainable Rule of Law in Nigeria, at a press conference, opposed the first group of lawyers.
“We appreciate the propaganda and innuendo canvassed by some people loyal to the ‘former’ Senator Bassey Albert regarding the issues that led to the judgment. But one must understand that the appeal court will still look into all the issues submitted before it for its decision,” they said.