Cross River Bye Election: Ayade's Aide Faults INEC On Issuance of Certificate of Return to Jarigbe *Says litigation still ongoing on wards and chapters exco list in Calabar Court The Director-General of Cross River State Due Process and Price Intelligence Bureau, Mr. Alphonsus Eba on Monday faulted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for issuing Certificate of Return to Hon. Jarigbe Agom as winner of the Cross River North Senatorial Bye Election held on December 5, 2020. He noted that there was no court order mandating INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Jarigbe adding that the only candidate of the party with nomination form, whose name was sent to INEC, whose name was published by INEC and fully participated in all the processes of the election and was declared winner of the By-election was Senator Odey. This is just as he stated that the real issue that deals with wards and chapters Exco list is currently before the Calabar Division of the State High Court, which according to him was transfered from Abuja to Calabar by the High Court Chief Judge. The case being referred to is the with suit No CV/1551/2020 between Emma Odidi and PDP and others. Jarigbe and Senator Stephen Odey both of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) are currently in a legal battle for the Cross River North Senatorial seat. The battle is tearing the party along two major line with the Jarigbe faction been accused of sponsorship by a governor in the South South described as the "Governor General of PDP". INEC had initially issued Certificate of Return to Senator Odey who was declared winner of the December 5, 2020 bye election in Cross River North Senatorial district. However, the electoral umpire said to have relied on a court judgment in Abuja issued another Certificate of Return to Hon. Jarigbe. Speaking, with journalists in Abuja over the issue and some recent development rocking the PDP in the state, Eba, noted that the right of appeal has not been exhausted before INEC rushed to issue the certificate to Hon. Jarigbe. He said, he faulted INEC issuance of certificate of return on the ground that certificate of return is not issued to winners of primaries but winners of General elections. "And since Jarigbe did not participate in the general election, he cannot be declared winner to be issued certificate of return as doing so is a breach of s 285 (13) of the CFRN 1999 as amended." Eba, who is also aspiring to be the next Chairman of Cross River State PDP, said the electoral body ought not to have issued a certificate of return to Jarigbe since the issue of jurisdiction of the court was been challenged. According to him internal matters of a political party are outside the jurisdiction of the Court except when a breach of the fundamental rights of a member or aspirant occurs which he noted was not the case before the court. The DG Due Process, stated stoutly that the issue of party matters being an internal issue of party dates back to 1875 in the celebrated case of Dunghall V Gardiner Ch D. 3 where lord Mellish enunciated the theory in Foss V Harbottle. He went further to say that this principle was later followed in Nigeria in the case Abubakri V Smith in 1973 and was later given a political party seal in the locus classicus of Onuoha V Okafor in 1983 and that has remained the law in 146 years now. The DG further condemned the suit filed by one John Alaga who was clothed with the insignia of a chief as an act of illegality and criminality. He stated clearly that the said John Alaga is Hon Jarigbe' s boy whom he merely sponsored to sue him for the sole purpose of misrepresenting facts before the court. He added that the judgment of Justice Binta Mohammed was either a product of swallow adjudication or perhaps, a judgment given malafide as no reasonable court would have given any consequential order on issue of candidacy of a political party in a case where the winner of the primaries who is Sen. Odey and PDP his party were not made parties to the suit. The DG commended the observation of the court of Appeal in finding that the claimant had no locus standi but faulted both courts for not dismissing the suit since that was what a court ought to do once it declares that a claimant has no locus standi because this goes to jurisdiction to entertain the suit and this the court failed to do. The DG who relied on the authority of PDP V Barr. Sopuluchukwu Ezeonwuka, that since both Sen. Dr Stephen Adi Odey and the PDP were not parties to the suit, noted that the orders of the trial court which the court of Appeal affirmed in Chief John Alaga V Jarigbe & ors was not binding on both the PDP and Sen Odey. On the judgement of the Supreme court, he said the apex court, in its judgement delivered on January 6, 2021 in the appeal brought before it by the PDP and Col. Austin Akobundu did not go into the substantive suit. He explained that the Supreme Court did not go into the substantive suit which was jurisdictional in nature but only dismissed the appeal on the basis of the preliminary objections raised by Hon Jarigbe, who is the first respondent in the appeal. Explaining further that the apex court did not declare Jarigbe winner nor did it determine the dispute of wards and chapters exco list in Cross River State. The DG said that it is in the interest of all members of the party to surrender themselves to the authority of the party to resolve whatever dispute that is militating against the peace of the party. He stated that PDP remain a strong united front in the state and that most of the decisions reached are by consensus of all members.