The legislature is an embodiment of legal constitution. It makes, amend and/or repeal laws. It is therefore in a better position to respect what the judiciary, the interpreter of the law, concludes on. This is why the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, should expeditiously do the needful by carrying out the judgment of the Appeal Court, Abuja Division, passed by Justice Tani Yusuf Hassan on February 8.
In that judgment, Justice Hassan held that the allegation of forgery of certificate brought against Christian Abah by Hon Hassan Saleh ought to have been proven before an order withdrawing the certificate of return issued to him (Abah) by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, could be validly withdrawn.
Saleh had challenged the eligibility of Abah to stand for the April 11, 2015 general election before the Federal High Court in Abuja on the ground that he forged an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) certificate in Accountancy purportedly obtained from the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, in 1985.
The judgment of the Federal High Court Abuja, which was presided over by Justice Adeniyi Ademola, delivered last year, nullified the election of Christian Abah as a member of the House of Representatives from Benue State on the grounds of certificate forgery and ordered that Hassan Saleh who scored the second highest votes during the primaries be sworn in.
However, Christian Abah was the unopposed candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in that election after Hassan Saleh and other contestants lost out to him in the primary election.
At the end of the day, he was declared the winner of the election even before the conduct of the elections and was issued certificate of return.
But the Appellate Court held that the judgment of Justice Ademola was pervasive because the ingredients of criminality in the allegations against Abah was not proven let alone beyond reasonable doubt.
In the Appeal Court lead judgment delivered by Justice Hassan, it was held that the allegation of forgery of certificate brought against Christian Abah ought to have been proven before an order withdrawing the certificate of return issued to him by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, could be validly withdrawn.
Justice Hassan also held that the Federal High Court was wrong in its order that INEC should issue a new certificate of return to Saleh and dabbling into the issue of the nomination when in actual fact, the allegation made by Saleh against his opponent has not been proven by any law court.
The court therefore, upheld the certificate of return earlier issued to Abah by INEC and ordered him to be inaugurated as a member of House of Representatives from Benue State.
Surprisingly, the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, is yet to carry out the judgment of the appellate court.
This, perhaps, could be as a result of steps taken by Saleh to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court.
He was reported to have said: ‘I have duly consulted my team of lawyers and in no time, we shall approach the Supreme Court and appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, which is alien to any legal authority in Nigeria and all over the world. It is a miscarriage of justice and with God on our side, we shall triumph and remain victorious.
‘It is also very pertinent to address the misinformation and misrepresentation of the decision of the Court of Appeal.
‘For the records, my opponent, Christian Adaba Abah whose election was nullified by the Federal High Court, Abuja, on the premises of certificate forgery and perjury approached the court of Appeal to set aside the decision of the lower court and allow a retrial, which was resolved in his favour.
‘The court of Appeal couldn’t have exonerated him of certificate forgery and perjury which are the nucleus of the matter. What the ruling of Appellant court has done today is to leave us with two options of either appealing against the judgment or go back to the Federal High Court for a fresh trial.
However, the court was very emphatic in saying that Hassan Saleh has no business being in the National Assembly as he was not a contestant in the said election.
It went further to hold that the forgery case which is criminal in nature bear a burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt which Hon Saleh had not discharged. It directed that Christian Abah should be issued with certificate of return and sworn in immediately and set aside the judgement of the lower court.
Meanwhile, some legal practitioners under the aegis of Concerned Legal Practitioners of Ado/Ogbadibo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency of Benue State recently matched to the National Assembly to demand for the immediate swearing-in of Christian Adaba Abah as the representative of their constituency in compliance with the Appeal Court judgment.
The lawyers said they were surprised that after the Appeal Court in Abuja ordered for the swearing-in of Abah on February 8th this year, the leadership of the House of Representatives under Hon. Yakubu Dogara has not considered it necessary to do so.
The protesters, who locked down the National Assembly for three hours, we’re led by Dominic Sunday Ochenehi who said the protest became necessary because all entreaties to the speaker to swear in Abah have failed.
The speaker was, however, said to have stated that he would not breach the constitution by swearing in Abah as the matter was still before the Supreme Court.
Ken Dede is a public affairs analyst writing in from Abuja