Why Court Sacked Nigerian Senator Atai Aidoko
Nearly four years after he controversially emerged the flagbearer of the Peoples Democratic Party for the Kogi East senatorial seat, Atai Aidoko has been sacked by the court.
In a lengthy judgement on June 13, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court (FHC) led by a judge, Gabriel Kolawole, condemned the decision of the PDP to present Mr Aidoko as its senatorial candidate in the 2015 general election, despite knowing that his challenger Isaac Alfa won the party’s primaries and was given a return ticket by electoral umpire, INEC.
Mr Kolawole said the PDP used rogue elements to include Mr Aidoko’s name among the list of candidates for the March 2015 election and described the act as, “an exercise in futility.”
According to the judge, evidence provided in court was overwhelming against Mr Aidoko’s submissions. The court ordered Mr Alfa be sworn in as senator as he was the rightful candidate of the PDP which won the election.
The court’s decision followed a December, 2017 appeal court ruling which affirmed an earlier decision of the Supreme Court, ordering a fresh start into the pre-election matter.
Like the appeal court, Mr Aidoko and the PDP were ordered by the FHC to pay N750, 000 each to Mr Alfa as damages for taking him through a long battle over something he ought not to have dragged in court.
Mr Kolawole frowned at the “relentless recklessness” of Mr Aidoko and his party which forced the pre-election matter to still remain at the trial court stage after such a long period.
How FHC Battle Began
Mr Alfa’s legal battle for the seat began at the lower court after the PDP presented Mr Aidoko as the party’s flag bearer in the said election.
Mr Alfa had approached the court presided over by a judge Nnamdi Dimgba who analysed the originating summons filed by Mr Alfa and nullified the emergence of Mr Aidoko as the PDP candidate in the 2015 election.
Mr Dimgba ordered the PDP to recognise Mr Alfa as the authentic candidate to have been presented by the party in the March 2015 senatorial election.
He also asked INEC to return Mr Alfa as the authentic winner of the Kogi East senatorial seat.
Dissatisfied, however Mr Aidoko approached the appeal court which questioned the failure of Mr Dimgba to look beyond the originating summons in the motion brought before it by Mr Alfa.
Subsequently the appeal court nullified the decision of the lower court and ordered the return of Mr Aidoko as the authentic PDP candidate in the said election.
It was based on the appeal court ruling that Mr Aidoko was sworn in by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
Not contented with the outcome at the Appeal Court, Mr Alfa appealed the matter at the Supreme Court, resulting in the June 2017 decision of the apex court.
In that decision, the Supreme Court agreed with the submission of the appeal court that Mr Dimgba ought to have perused other documents like the proof of evidence, besides the originating summons before reaching a decision at the trial court.
The highest court however faulted the failure of the appeal court to order a fresh start into the pre-election matter and decided that parties return to the FHC and start the matter de-novo, which means to carry out fresh hearing into the case.
The consequent of Supreme Court decision was the nullification of previous decisions on the matter, as explained by another judge, Bintang Nyako at the Federal High Court.
“Now to my mind, the effect of setting aside means to annul. It goes back to the beginning, as if it did not exist,” Mrs Nyako said.
But in an attempt to further frustrate the matter, Mr Aidoko requested the permission of the lower court to contest three main issues at the appeal court a second time.
The purpose of Mr Aidoko’s second appearance at the appeal court was to question the jurisdiction of the lower court to disregard the previous decision of the appeal court which favoured him.
Mr Aidoko contended that the only issue decided at the Supreme Court was the failure of the trial court under Mr Dimgba to access the originating summons in the first place.
Mr Aidoko said the decision of the Supreme Court did not affect the earlier judgement of the appeal court.
He therefore asked the appeal court to suspend the matter at the lower court.
In its decision, the appeal court said Mr Aidoko showed ‘great disrespect’ for the Supreme Court and ordered the plaintiff to pay a fine of N1 million to Mr Alfa.
The court explained that the June 2017 decision of Supreme Court nullified every other decision earlier reached in the matter.
“The earlier judgement which went on appeal to the Supreme Court was no longer valid, in view of the facts that all courts below are bound to follow the decisions and order (s) of the Supreme Court,” the appellate court said in its December 2017 ruling.
Even though the judgement that got him sworn in was annulled, Mr Aidoko refused to obey the law and continued to appear as the Kogi East senator.
Following Wednesday’s court’s decision, however, Mr Alfa is expected to be sworn in as senator while Mr Aidoko vacates the office. However, the sacked senator could choose to further delay his ouster by approaching the appeal court again.