Pledges to respect decision
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt and Alex Enumah in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday expressed sadness over the judgment of the Supreme Court barring the All Progressives Congress (APC) from fielding any candidate in Rivers State for the general election, pledging, however, that the party would respect the verdict.
The apex court sealed the hope of APC to field candidates for the election, starting on Saturday with the presidential and National Assembly polls, as it struck out the party’s appeal against the lower court’s judgment, insisting that it was statute-barred.
Reacting to the Supreme Court judgment at the APC presidential rally at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Igwuruta-Ali, Port Harcourt, Buhari said although he was saddened by the judgment, the party would respect the verdict.
I am very disturbed by the decision that we are not allowed to participate in some processes in the election. But we have to respect the decision of the institution,” he said.
He added: “I am really saddened by the ruling of the Supreme Court, which barred APC from fielding candidates in Rivers State. The courts have barred us from participating in the general election in Rivers State.
“However, as we remain resolute in our effort to win the 2019 general election, I assure you that justice will be done.”
He declared that his administration would ensure that the Rivers State chapter of the APC gets justice despite the ruling of the Supreme Court, which struck out its appeal.
The Supreme Court in a judgment delivered in the main appeal on the contentious issue that emanated from the congresses and primary elections of the party in Rivers, held that the appeal of the APC was statute-barred.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Amir Sanusi, the apex court agreed with the respondents led by Mr. Ibrahim Umar, that the suit was a pre-election matter and that the appeal filed by the APC was done outside the 14 days required by law.
The Supreme Court consequently struck out the appeal for being statute-barred and having becoming an academic exercise.
Justice Sanusi announced that reasons for the judgment would be available in three months’ time.
Counsel to the APC, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), had on Monday argued that the suit that brought the appeal was not a pre-election matter.
His contention was that those who instituted the suit at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt had no locus standi to have done so because they were not governorship aspirants.
Umar and 22 others believed to be loyal to Senator Magnus Abe had filed a suit at the Rivers Statel High Court in Port Harcourt to challenge their unlawful exclusion by the Rotimi Amaechi faction of the APC from participating in the congresses of the party designed to produce delegates for the primary elections.
Justice Chiwendu Nwogu of the state High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had in his judgment upheld the claims of the group and barred the APC from proceeding with the conduct of the congresses and the primary election.
The APC, however, went ahead with the primary election and later appealed against the decision of the trial court at the Port Harcourt division of the Court of Appeal.
At this stage, the Rotimi Amaechi’s faction, led by Mr. Tonye Cole, sought to be joined in the suit but the request was refused by the appellate court on the grounds that they were not parties at the trial court.
This prompted the group to approach the Supreme Court to reverse the decision.
The Supreme Court, however, in its judgment, insisted that the matter was a pre-election matter and that the appeal was filed out of time.
Delivering ruling in three other related appeals involving Tonye Cole, Justice Amina Augie, struck out the three consolidated appeals on the grounds that the appellants “have no legs to stand upon.”
Justice Augie said from available records the appellants were not parties at the trial court as well as the Court of Appeal and as such cannot get remedy from the Supreme Court.
With the striking out of APC’s appeal, it is now clear that the party cannot field candidates for the National Assembly election coming up this Saturday and the governorship and state House of Assembly election, slated by the Independent National Electoral Commission for March 2.