S’Court: We Remain a United Institution

Walter Onnoghen

•Strikes out Abe’s appeal on Rivers APC primary
•Stop intimidating the apex court, APC tells PDP

Alex Enumah and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Supreme Court said yesterday that it remains a united institution, denying a report that the reported resignation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, had ripped it apart.
“It is necessary to state categorically clear that the publication is false and misleading in its entirety. There is no iota of truth in the story, as every word in it only exists in the realm of rumour and mischief,” the Director of Press and Information, Supreme Court, Mr. Festus Akande, said in a statement.

According to the statement, the Supreme Court of Nigeria is one big, indivisible judicial family that is not in any way governed by religious, tribal or parochial influence or sentiments.
The statement added that the judicial oath taken by all the justices of the court is “a potent sacred bond that regulates and conscientises the conducts of the judges in the discharge of their judicial functions.”

It added: “For the umpteenth time, let it be known to all and sundry that no judicial officer is appointed on account of religious or tribal affiliation, as such, the discharge of their judicial obligations cannot be dictated by such extraneous considerations. As it has always been, the Supreme Court justices and the entire management are united, cohesive and indivisible in the quest to move the court to an enviable height.”

The apex court enjoined members of the public to always cross check their facts from it.
Justice Onnoghen is currently under prosecution by the federal government over allegations of failure to declare some of his assets in line with the provisions of the law for public officers.

He has been on suspension since January 25, 2019, by President Muhammadu Buhari on the orders of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Onnoghen, however, was said to have turned in his notice of retirement to President Muhammadu Buhari last Thursday, a development that has not been confirmed by the Supreme Court but nevertheless has assumed prominence in the media and other public discourse.

Supreme Court Strikes Out Abe’s Appeal on Rivers APC Primary

Meanwhile, the apex court yesterday struck out the appeal instituted by Senator Magnus Abe, seeking the court’s pronouncement on 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.
A seven-man panel of justices of the court in striking out the appeal, held that the notice of appeal filed by the senator representing Rivers South-east at the upper chamber of the legislature was defective and not in compliance with the rule of the court.

The Acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, who delivered the unanimous decision of the seven-man panel of justices of the court, held that the notice of appeal was defective because it did not contain the names and titles of parties in the matter.

The panel held that the notice of appeal offended Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution since the amendment could not be done to the notice of appeal in view of the fact that the 14 days required by law to file the appeal had expired.
Abe, 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.

At the resumed hearing yesterday, counsel to the APC, Mr. Jibrin Okutekpa (SAN), objected to hearing of the appeal on the grounds that the names of appropriate persons affected by the suit were not listed on the notice of appeal and thereby rendered the appeal incompetent and incurably defective.

Justice Mohammad in the ruling upheld Okutekpa’s submissions and accordingly struck out the appeal on the grounds that it was defective.
The court rejected the plea by Abe’s lawyer, Henry Bello that the omission committed by him should not be visited on his client, adding that the notice of appeal cannot be refiled because the 14 days allowed by law to do so, had expired.

Bello, in moving the motion last month had prayed the apex court to, among others, grant accelerated hearing in the matter, abridgment of time within, which parties are to file their processes and a definite date for hearing of the appeal.
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.

Respondents in the appeal are, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC and another governorship aspirant, Tonye Cole, along with 36 others.
In a related development, the apex court will on Thursday, hear the appeals filed by another factional governorship candidate, Mr. Tonye Cole and the APC.
The appeals are: 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.

Stop Intimidating Supreme Court Justices, APC Tells PDP

As the matters come before the apex court on Thursday, the APC has warned PDP not to mount pressure on the justices of the Supreme Court over the cases on the exclusion of its candidates in the general elections in Rivers State.
In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Isa-Onilu, the ruling party accused PDP of trying “to hoodwink and deceive the public; and most importantly, intimidate and blackmail our eminent Supreme Court Justices into doing their bidding in respect.”

It described as nonsensical the statement by the PDP against the APC and two senior serving cabinet members – Minister of Transport, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

“While the APC has no intention to join issues with the PDP over its fictional and concocted allegations against the party and its leaders, we are however well aware of the PDP’s intent to hoodwink and deceive the public; and most importantly, intimidate and blackmail our eminent Supreme Court Justices into doing their bidding in respect of the matter of the purported exclusion of Rivers State APC candidates from the last elections, before the apex court.

“Again, for the purpose of clarity, it needs restating that the Supreme Court has not made any pronouncement on the purported exclusion of APC candidates from the just concluded Governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly elections in Rivers State,” it said.
APC said the cheap attempt by the PDP to ambush the Supreme Court with “their cock and bull conspiracies should be seen for what it is, hogwash.”

The ruling party said the PDP has refused to come to terms with the fact that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration is a stickler to the rule of law.

“We urge Nigerians to completely ignore the evil machinations of the PDP as contained in their ludicrous and false statement on the matter of the purported exclusion of Rivers APC candidates in the last elections before the Supreme Court.

“As always, we shall allow the law take its course in respect of the purported exclusion of our candidates in the elections in Rivers State and we advise the PDP to do the same, rather than overheat the polity with their illogical and false claims,” APC added.