Legal hostilities resume on Monday, February 11, 2019, at Supreme Court in an appeal that will decide the fate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in fielding candidates for the various elective positions in Rivers State.
The appeal lodged by a faction of the party loyal to the Minister of Information, Rotimi Ameachi, is an offshoot of some judicial decisions that barred the party from presenting candidates for the forthcoming general elections.
Recall that the Port Harcourt division of the Court of Appeal had restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission from accepting candidates from the APC.
Last Friday, the apex court upheld the order of Federal High Court sitting in Port-Harcourt which last year, barred the All Progressives Congress (APC) from conducting any primary election pending the determination of a suit brought before it by a team of 22 aggrieved members of the party.
The apex court, in a judgment set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeal in Port-Harcourt which in October last year, upturned the interlocutory order of the High Court in the political case.
However, it is hope that the outcome of Monday’s proceedings at the Supreme Court, which borders on the main appeal, will resolve the legal quagmire that the APC has found itself in Rivers State.
The Supreme Court panel led by Justice Mohammad Dattijo, had last Friday validated the High Court order that barred APC from conducting its Rivers primaries.
The Supreme evoked Section 22 of its act which allows it to take over a matter and give final judgement to decide on the appeal.
In a lead judgment delivered by Justice Sidi Barge, the Apex Court held that by virtue of Section 11, Rule Five of the Appeal Court rules, the appeal against the High Court ruling having been withdrawn by the APC was tantamount to outright dismissal.
Justice Barge said that since the Court of Appeal failed to make dismissal pronouncement for the said appeal, the apex court had no choice than to evoke Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act to assume jurisdiction over the case and decide on it.
“It is apparent that the lower court based its decision on the lack of authority of Felix C. Nwafor on a decision which had been set aside by the Supreme Court.
“The letter dated 3rd August, 2019, was, assuming it was valid, for Fagbemi (SAN) to act as ‘the only counsel on record’. He cannot also not use same as basis for leading others including Tuduru Ede. A change of counsel would have reversed or regularised the development. The letter of Fagbemi to ‘continue to act as counsel on record is a misnomer. He has never been counsel on record save for Tuduru Ede, who initiated the appeal by filling the notice of appeal.
“The instruction of Felix C. Nwafor, was direct and specific. He was not to act as counsel on record. He had the mandate of the respondent to discontinue the appeal by filling a notice of withdrawal, which he did.
“There is nowhere in this appeal or records where the instruction of Felix Nwafor, to this effect has been denied or withdrawn. This was further strengthen by the averments contained in the affidavit deposed to by Chiewe Chinweikpe, in support of the motion on notice dated 12th September, 2018 as contained at page 31-35 of the records of appeal.
“Clearly from the foregoing, I have no hesitation in holding that it is inappropriate for the lower court to now rely on its previous decision in June 21, 2018 in October 31, 2018 to circumvent the effect of the notice of withdrawal which in actual fact, the Supreme Court being the apex court in the nation’s judicial hierarchy, had set aside the ruling on October 22, 2018 in SC/764/2018- APC V Ibrahim Umah and others.
“It is my considered opinion that this appeal must be given a decent burial. The appeal having been withdrawn at the lower court by the respondent is deemed distilled. This is what the lower court failed or evaded to do.
“Therefore by virtue of Section 22 of the Supreme Court act 2004, the lower court having failed to exercise its powers provided under Order 11, Rule 5, this court is bound to do so.
“Thus I’ll allow, the appeal and set aside the ruling of the lower court dated October 31st 2018. I hear by dismiss Appeal No Ca/Ph/198/2018.