All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Mr. Celestine Omehia
By Muhammad Bello
The Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Port Harcourt, River State, has thrown out the petition filed against the incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, by his challenger from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Mr. Celestine Omehia.
Omeiha, who is Amechi’s cousin, had gone to court seeking it to strike out the election of the governor who won the seat on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Omeiha had also sought the tribunal, which was ordered September 22, 2011, by the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt to retry the petition brought before by the APGA candidate.
According to the tribunal chairman Justice Abdullahi Liman, the petition was struck out on constitutional grounds, having exceeded the 180 days as directed by the Supreme Court on election matters, observing that the tribunal would be committing a “gross judicial impendency” if it goes ahead to hear the petition.
Counsel to Amaechi, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, said of the judgment: “What we witnessed today is what I will call application of constitutional provisions to the last. There is no sentiments or emotions; either you are within the 180 days or you are not and the constitution said if it is where a retrial has been ordered, the retrial order must be complied within the trial period of 180 days.
“You will agree with me that this matter was filed in May 17, 2011, today, it is running into 206 days, and that is outside the intention of the relevant provision of the constitution. That was why the tribunal had no difficulty in striking out the petition.”
Reacting on behalf of Omehia, his counsel, Mr. James Ezike described the Supreme Court directive on election matters at the tribunal to only 180 days as draconian, describing it as “a sad day in the history of the country”.
“It is not right for the Supreme Court to say that this is the provision and it must be that way. The mischief, aimed at is not more important than the sociology, the environment, and other provision of the constitution about fair hearing.
“One of the provision of the constitution said the judgment of any court, be it the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal should be enforced. The Court of Appeal gave a judgment in our favour for the tribunal to retry our case and that judgment should be enforced.
“It is a sad day in the history of the country, where the highest court in the land could enact such a draconian order. Then, what we should be doing in this country is that if you have a case, you gather the documents, put them in a computer and press and the computer will give you judgment,” Omehia’s counsel said.