Alex Enumah in Abuja
A special panel of the Court of Appeal on Monday included Senator Victor Umeh and his All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the appeal filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Obiora Okonkwo seeking his restoration as senator representing the Anambra Central senatorial district.
Both Umeh and his party, APGA, through an application, had sought to be joined as interested party in the matter.
Their application was however, granted by the five-man special panel headed by Justice M.L. Garba, since there was no opposition from lawyers to Okonkwo, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Mrs. Uche Ekwunife.
Other members of the special panel who are drawn from the various divisions of the court to hear the pre-election matter also include Justices M.A. Danjuma; T.O. Awotoye; M.L. Shuaibu and F.O. Oho.
Okonkwo in the said appeal filed by his lawyer, Sabastine Hon SAN, is praying the appellate court to restore the consent judgment of the Federal High Court delivered on December 13, 2017, ordering INEC to issue him a certificate of return as senator representing the senatorial district of Anambra State.
Meanwhile, Umeh and his political party who were joined as 5th and 6th respondents respectively in the appeal, were given seven days within which to file and exchange their processes pertaining to the appeal.
At yesterdayâ€™s sitting, Umeh and his party (APGA) in a motion on notice filed by his counsel, Patrick Ikwueto (SAN), asked the court to joined them in the proceedings as interested parties to the subject matter.
The motion dated and filed on February 23, 2018 was brought pursuant to sections 6(6)(a) and 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution and section 15 of the Court of Appeal, seeking for an order joining Umeh and APGA as co- respondents (5th and 6th) in the appeal.
In the application which is rooted on 12 grounds, Umeh is contending that having been declared and sworn-in as the senator currently representing Anambra Central senatorial district after the delivery of the judgment of Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, he and his party have sufficient interest to be joined as co-respondents.
That the appeal cannot be completely and effectually determined in their absence as any decision given in the appeal, including â€œto order the appellant to take the seat of the APGA candidateâ€ as sought by the appellant, will affect the legal rights and interest of the applicants.
He further argued that by the right to fair hearing entrenched in the 1999 Constitution, they are entitled to be heard in the appeal so as to defend their legal rights and interests.
In a 20 paragraphs affidavit deposed to by Umeh, he averred that â€Žhe contested and won the election as the senator representing Anambra Central senatorial district under the platform of APGA.
He said the instant appeal seeking to restore the order for the appellant to be declared the winner of the Anambra Central senatorial election and be sworn in â€œto take the seat of the APGA candidate,â€ is a gross abuse of process.
The appeal has been adjourned to March 14, 2018 for hearing.