The Supreme Court, has reserved ruling on the competence of the appeal filed by a faction of the Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The five-man panel of the apex court, led by Justice Mohammed Datijo, fixed ruling on a date to be communicated to the parties, after listening to the submissions of the Counsels on the matter.
The Supreme Court, had last December, adjourned till March 8, 2019, to determine the legality or otherwise of the primary elections the APC conducted in Rivers State, for the purpose of nominating its Candidates for the 2019 polls.
The appeal marked SC/1070/2018, was lodged before the court, by 22 Chieftains of the party, led by one Abdullahi Umar.
The appellants, through their Counsel, Henry Bello, urged the Supreme Court to reaffirm the ruling it delivered on October 22, and nullify the outcome of the primary elections that produced Tonye Cole and other Candidates in the Faction of the party, that is loyal to Rotimi Amaechi, the former Governor of the State.
The appellants equally urged the apex court, to dismiss a pending appeal marked CA/PH/198/2015, which the said Faction lodged before the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal.
However, the apex court reconvened about two months earlier than the planned date, for delivery of its judgment in the suit.
The sitting was sequel to an application by the Appellants, requesting the Supreme Court to fastrack the judgment, in line with the provisions of the 4th Alteration of the Electoral Act, which stipulates a 60-day time frame for the matter.
Bello submitted that though the court ought to deliver its judgment before January 1, “the court cannot do anything, because the matter has become statute barred.”
He therefore, prayed the court for leave to address it orally, on the need for the apex court to deliver a judgment striking out the appeal, adding that, the Appellants’ motion of December 17, 2018, had been overtaken by the expiration of time.
However, Justice Datijo noted that outside the Appellants’ motion, there is also the need for Counsel to address the apex court, on the competence of the appeal, adding that, the Supreme Court would not be competent in the first place, to sit on an appeal that arises from an incompetent appeal at the Court of Appeal.
Responding, Bello drew the panel’s attention to paragraph 4 of the Appeal Court’s record, wherein he submitted that the Respondents did not oppose the motion of the applicants consented, and urged the court to grant the relieves sought by the applicants.
“The order of the trial court is a consent order and specie of consent judgment”, he said.
He therefore, submitted that the appeal against the judgment of the trial court was not competent, and urged the apex court to so hold, and strike out the appeal for being manifestly and grossly incompetent.
The Respondent Counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, however drew the court’s attention to the fact that there are two different appeals; the first, on the interlocutory injunction, and the other after the judgment in the substantive suit. He said the appeal after the substantive suit has been struck out by the Court of Appeal, on the grounds that it was an appeal against a consent judgment.
He added, that the appeal before the court is not a consent judgment, as the dispute over representation was not resolved by the lower court.
He further submitted that the matter before the apex court is not a pre-election matter, as what is being challenged is the election of Officers to the Wards, Local Government, and State Congresses of the APC.
After taking submissions from the Counsel on the matter, Justice Datijo announced that ruling on the competence of the appeal has been reserved to a date that would be communicated to parties.
It would be recalled, that the apex court had on October 22, nullified an interim order of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, which gave the APC the nod to conduct its Ward, Local Government and State Congresses, in Rivers State.