By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Supreme Court has set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, which permitted the conduct of congresses by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State.
The order of the Appeal Court issued on June 21, 2018 against the ruling of a Rivers State High Court was voided by the apex court on the grounds that the appellate court acted in bad faith.
Justice Centus Nweze, in a judgment in an appeal filed by one Abdulahi Umar and 22 other aggrieved members of the APC, held that the Court of Appeal, ought not to have vacated the injunctive order issued against the APC by the Rivers State High Court on the conduct of the congresses.
Justice A. C. Nwosu of the Rivers State High Court had in an exparte motion filed by Umar, restrained the APC from conducting the congresses pending the determination of the suit instituted by Umar, complaining against their exclusion from the party’s congresses.
But while the injunctive order of the High Court was subsisting, the APC went ahead and conducted the ward, local government and state congresses on May 19, 20 and 21.
After the conduct of the congresses, the court of Appeal in a ruling on an application by APC seeking stay of execution of the High Court injunctive order and stay of proceedings of the main suit, vacated the injunctive order and refused to stay hearing of the substantive matter prompting Umar to complain to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court in the judgment lambasted the Appeal Court for judicially indulging APC and vacating the injunctive order in the party’s favour when there is abundant evidence that the APC was in contempt of court.
The apex court further held that the Court of Appeal ought not to have granted its discretion in favour of APC because the party was in grave violation of the order of the High Court.
Justice Nweze said that the Appeal Court has a duty to protect a lawful subsisting order and ought not to have granted favourable judicial discretion for a party that willingly disobeyed a valid court order.
“It is unfortunate and wrongful for the Court of Appeal to have entertained a party in contempt of a valid court order to the extent of granting judicial favour by way of staying of execution of an injunctive order when the party at the centre of the dispute was in gross contempt of court.
“It is a serious matter for anyone to flout a court order and in the instant case, it is clear that the respondent (APC) was in grave disobedience to 2 lawful court orders,” the court held.
According to the court, it is sacrilegious, ill-fated and suicide mission for the Court of Appeal to have departed from various decision of the Supreme Court that any party in contempt of court ought not to be granted judicial discretion and in this matter Appeal Court is bound to follow Supreme Court final decision.
He said, what is more, the refusal of the Court of Appeal to be bound by the final decision of the Supreme Court is a gross insubordination.
The apex court therefore nullified and set aside the decision of the Appeal Court delivered on June 21, 2018.