Rivers APC: Absence of INEC’s Lawyer Stalls Hearing in Abe, Cole’s Appeals at Supreme Court

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

Hearing in four appeals on the primary election of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Rivers State for nomination of candidates for the 2019 general election was stalled at the Supreme Court yesterday following the absence of counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the need for parties to regularise their processes in the suit.

The Supreme Court had last Monday adjourned till April 4 to hear all pending appeals relating to the Rivers State APC’s primary.

Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad fixed the date for hearing on all the various appeals after addressing some preliminary issues on the appeals.

The appeals are: SC/ 1972019 filed by Magnus Abe and some others, with APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) listed among the respondents; SC 295/ 20019, filed by APC, with PDP listed among respondents; SC266, filed by APC, with Magnus Abe and others as respondents, and SC/267/2019 filed by Tonye Patrick Cole, with Magnus Abe and 48 others as respondents.

However, when the matter was called Thursday, Senator Abe’s counsel, Henry Bello, informed the apex court of his motion seeking to amend his appeal.

The matter was, however, stalled as a result of the absence of counsel to INEC, which is the first respondent.

Although Bello applied to the apex court to stand down the matter for few hours to enable the counsel who was said to be airborne arrive and join them in the hearing, the seven-man panel led by the Acting CJN, Justice Muhammad, however ruled that the apex court does not stand down matters for anybody or group.

Subsequently, the matter was adjourned till Monday April 8 for hearing.

Hearing in the other suits filed by Tonye cole, a factional governorship candidate of the APC and the APC were however adjourned till April 11 to enable parties file and exchange necessary processes.

Justice Muhammad in addition abridged time for the parties to file and exchange the brief of argument since the cases, being pre-election matters, were time-bound.

However, in a fourth appeal by the APC seeking a consolidation of all existing appeals relating to the primary elections, the court adjourned the matter indefinitely for parties to regularise their processes.

Other members of the seven-man panel of the Supreme Court are Justices Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, Olukayode Ariwoola, Amiru Sanusi, Paul Galinje, Amina Augie, and Uwani Abba-Aji.

Senator Abe, in his own appeal, has asked the apex court to determine the authenticity or otherwise of the direct primary conducted by the APC in Rivers State for the nomination of its candidates for the 2019 general election.

Abe, who is a factional leader of the Rivers APC, had prayed the apex court to make a final pronouncement on the legality of both direct and indirect primary polls conducted by the two factions of the party last year.

The motion dated March 1, was predicated on eight grounds and affidavit of urgency among which is that the matter being a pre-election suit must by law be fully determined within 60 days.