APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh
By Christopher Isiguzo
The Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal Wednesday adjourned to November 22, hearing in the two pending motions filed by the National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, against the decision of the Enugu State Chief Judge, Justice Innocent Umezulike, on the party’s crisis.
The court also directed that the two motions should be merged since they arose from the contentious decision of the same court, while efforts should be made by the applicant to get the necessary proceedings of the lower court before the adjourned date to enable the appellate court to commence hearing of the matter.
When the case came up before the appellate court Wednesday, the lead counsel for Umeh, Chief Patrick Ikweto (SAN), informed the court that Umezulike had refused to release the rulings of his court delivered on September 17, and October 8, which are the subjects of the appeal despite all efforts to obtain them including formal application and payment of the prescribed fees.
The counsel also told the court that despite the pendency of the appeal and the motion for stay of proceeding of the lower court, Umezulike continued to hear the matter and gave his ruling, an action he described as very surprising.
“We have done everything possible in the past weeks to obtain copies of the rulings of the lower court in Enugu but they have refused to do so. We have observed the necessary procedures for obtaining the rulings of the court yet the Court Registrar has not complied. The record of proceeding in this matter which was handled by the CJ has been kept away,” Ikweto said.
The three-man appeal panel, however, directed that the two pending motions brought by the APGA Chairman should be married together and adjourned hearing to November 22.
Fielding questions from journalists after the court session, Umeh said the refusal of the Chief Judge to release copies of his rulings on the matter “is a ploy to frustrate the hearing of my appeal which is very unfortunate.”
He said it was obvious that Justice Umezulike was afraid of releasing copies of the rulings made by him even when the law allows him only seven days to do so, stressing that the plan could be to frustrate his appeal against his faulty decisions.
He expressed confidence that the appellate court would do justice in the matter hence his decision to appeal the verdicts of the Enugu High court.
On his part, Ikweto, who said he could not understand why the lower court was holding tight to its proceedings, said he could not understand why under the law, any public officer was enjoined to give you a certified copy of record in his possession upon an application and payment of a fee, stressing that it was clearly stated in the Evidence Act.
“We have done everything humanly possible to get the records of the lower court but all to no avail. I see it as a personal decision of one man who says I have the record but I don’t want to release it and we don’t know why,” the counsel said.