S’Court nullifies Rivers’ congresses
Abe hails ruling
Alex Enumah, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has denied receiving any list of candidates for Zamfara State from the All Progressives Congress (APC) as claimed by the party.
The electoral body had disqualified APC from fielding candidates for the 2019 general elections in Zamfara State on the grounds that the party did not conduct primary elections in the state within the time it stipulated in its guidelines.
But the APC National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Lanre Isa-Onilu, had told THISDAY after the deadline for submission of candidates’ for the presidential and National Assembly elections on October 18, 2018, that the party submitted candidates for all positions in all states of the federation, including Zamfara.
“We submitted applications for all the positions in all the states, including Zamfara,” Isa-Onilu told THISDAY.
However, INEC National Commissioner on Voter Education and Information, Mr. Festus Okoye, told THISDAY on phone yesterday that the commission did not receive the list of candidates from Zamfara State from the ruling party.
He said based on the provisions of Section 31 and 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), “the commission does not expect that your party will submit names of any candidates from Zamfara State.”
Okoye added, “For clarity, our position is that the APC, will not be fielding candidates for the governorship, National Assembly and state assembly elections in Zamfara State for the 2019 for the general elections.
“There are two matters relating to the party primary election conducted in Zamfara State pending before the State High court and Federal High Court in Zamfara. Those two matters are yet to be decided.
“So APC did not submit any list from Zamfara and INEC did not release any list of candidates from Zamfara.”
Supreme Court Nullifies Rivers’ Congresses
The Supreme Court has set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, which permitted the conduct of congresses by the 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 Abdullahi 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 ex-parte 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 had a duty to protect a lawful subsisting order and ought not to have granted favourable judicial discretion for a party that willingly disobeyed valid court order.
He said, “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 center 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 two lawful court orders.”
The learned justice added, “It is sacrilegious, ill-fated and a suicide mission for the Court of Appeal to have departed from various decisions of the Supreme Court that any party in contempt of court ought not to be granted judicial discretion and in this matter the appeal court is bound to follow Supreme Court final decision.”
He said, what was more, refusal of the Court of Appeal to be bound by final decision of Supreme Court was a gross insubordination.
The apex court, therefore, nullified and set aside the decision of the appeal court delivered on June 21, 2018.
Abe Hails Ruling
Reacting to the Supreme Court ruling, Senator representing Rivers South East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Abe, described the judgment of the Supreme Court which set aside the decision as historic.
But the state party Chairman, Mr. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, who emerged from the annulled congresses, insisted that he remained the chairman of the party as the Supreme Court judgment did not remove him from office.
Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday evening, Abe, who had emerged the governorship candidate of a faction of the party through direct primaries, said the judgement meant the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree’s faction loyal to Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, had fallen into a pit from which it could not be rescued.
Abe said, “This judgment is historic and affirmed the position of a High Court in Rivers State that the action of the party in excluding members of the party from the processes of the congresses and depriving them their constitutional right was wrong. And to do so in the face of a clear order of a court of competent jurisdiction was nothing but clear stupidity.
“And so for anybody to parade himself either as a candidate of the party arising from a processes that has clearly been voided by the court is nothing but political rascality. And I think it is time for right thinking members of this party to put this whole thing to an end and put the party in a proper place for the realisation of taking over Rivers State.”
He however said the party had a way out of the mess as it had to adopt candidates who emerged from the direct primaries conducted by his own faction of the party.
But Flag-Amachree said the judgment did not remove his executive from office.
According to him, “What the Supreme Court did was to set aside the stay of execution of the Court of Appeal on an order given by Justice Wogu, which has been overtaken by his judgment. Because after the stay of execution, Justice Wogu has given his judgment. However, no court has set aside the perpetual injunction by Justice A.O Musa of the Federal High Court, Abuja. So party members should keep calm as it’s just an academic exercise with no effect.”
Also in a statement signed by the state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Chris Finebone, the party said aside setting aside the order of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court did not make any other orders that could affect the party.
The statement said, “The appeal filed at the Supreme Court by Ibrahim Umar & 22 others of which the ruling was given today, three issues were canvassed before the Supreme Court one of which was that the Appeal Court did not act correctly by granting a stay of execution on the interlocutory orders of the State High Court.
“The Supreme Court agreed with them. However, the Supreme Court did not make pronouncements on the other issues since the State High Court had already given final judgment on them, an action that has left the present development a mere academic exercise.
“The Supreme Court only granted the appeal in parts and did not make any consequential orders as that can only be subject matter at the Appeal Court when the appeal hearing of the State High Court judgment commences.
“The Supreme Court allowed the appellant appeal which was against the stay of Order of Injunction of 11/05/2018.The Court said the said order should not have been stayed. The Supreme Court made no orders except to set aside the Court of Appeal order.
“That clears the way for hearing of the main appeal at Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt against the judgment of the High Court. Their prayer that Supreme Court should hear the pending appeal at Court of Appeal was rejected .The appeal is to be heard and determined by Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt.”
He called on members to remain calm as the judgment has no effect on the party.