The Supreme Court on Friday sacked a member of the Delta State House of Assembly representing Ugelli North Constituency II, Mr. Edoja Akpodiete.
The apex court ordered him to refund to the state coffers all the salaries and allowances he had collected since he had been occupying the seat since 2011.
It was the first time the Supreme Court would be ordering any person to refund the money earned from office that he or she illegally occupied.
In its lead judgement delivered by Justice Walther Onnoghen, the Supreme Court ordered that Mr. Jenkins Gwede of the Democratic Peoples Party to take over the seat from Akpodiete.
The court held that the Independent National Electoral Commission had wrongfully issued the certificate of return to Akpodiete even when it was aware that he had ceased to be the sponsored candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party over 45 days before the state House of Assembly election was conducted on April 26, 2011.
The apex court described INEC’s action as worrisome and therefore awarded a cost of N650,000 each against the electoral body and Edoja.
The court affirmed the documents tendered by Gwede’s lawyer, Mr. Ikhide Ehighelua, showing that the DPP had notified INEC of its choice of Gwede as its candidate after Akpodiete formally withdrew from the election and the party returned the N2m he paid for nomination form to him.
Justice Onnoghen held that the INEC had “foisted on the electorate of Ugelli North Constituency II of Delta State House of Assembly a pretender to the seat who not only withdrew from the election in writing but collected the deposit he paid to the 4th respondent (DPP) for the said election.”
It therefore ordered that the 1st respondent (INEC) to issue the appellant with a certificate of return in respect of the House of Assembly election held on April 26, 2011.
A Federal High Court in Asaba had dismissed Gwede’s case in a judgement delivered on June 27, 2012 for lack of jurisdiction to entertain the matter because it was election related.
Through his lawyer, Mr. Ikhide Ehighelua, Gwede had appealed to the Court of Appeal in Benin which in its judgement delivered on May 22, 2013 had resolved the issues raised in his favour but refused to make any consequential order.