Alex Enumah in Abuja
There is palpable anxiety in Anambra State as the Court of Appeal readies to deliver its verdict this week on the appeal filed by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of Young Progressives Party (YPP) against his sack from the National Assembly.
A three man panel of the appellate court presided over by Justice Stephen Adah had last week reserved judgement in Ubah’s appeal seeking to upturn the judgement of an Abuja High Court, which ordered his removal from the Senate over alleged forgery.
Ubah represents Anambra South Senatorial District in the upper chamber. He was declared winner of the February 23, 2019 Anambra South Senatorial election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and was accordingly sworn in as a Senator of the Ninth Assembly last year.
However, Kawu, delivering judgement on April 11, 2019, in a suit filed by one Anani Chuka nullified, Ubah’s election on the ground that he allegedly used a forged National Examination Council (NECO) certificate to contest the senatorial election that brought him to office as Senator.
Kawu, on January 17, 2020, further upheld his judgement in a ruling on Ubah’s application seeking to set aside his sack order on the ground that the application lacked merit. The court after sacking Ubah ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return it had issued to him and issue a fresh one to Dr. Obinna Uzoh of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who came second in the election.
Miffed by the decision, Ubah had on same day approached the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgement, which, he insisted, was a grave miscarriage of justice. In the appeal predicated on four grounds and filed by Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, the senator alleged that he was denied fair hearing by the trial court.
Respondents in the appeal included Anani Chuka, Young Progressive Party (YPP), INEC, and Dr Obinna Uzoh, as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respondents, respectively.
Arguing the appeal Ubah’s lawyer, Ikpeazu, urged the court to hold that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to have heard the matter in the first place because the originating summon was incompetent, having not been signed by the lawyer.
Ubah also brought a motion before the court praying it to set aside the judgement of the lower court on the ground that the suit was never filed because the stamp and seal of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) allegedly used in the filing of the originating summons was forged and the payment for the originating summons was made on September 25, 2019, months after the judgement was delivered.
Ubah also asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgement of Kawu on the ground that the entire proceedings and the judgement were manifestly incompetent, being a nullity because as at the time the judgement was delivered, the suit had not been filed because filing fees had not been paid.
He accordingly urged the court to set aside the judgement of the lower court.
But counsel to the first and fourth respondents, N. A. Mohammed and Professor H. A. Olaniyan, respectively, who brought the preliminary objections, asked the court in their respective arguments to dismiss the appeal. The lawyers said the appeal was caught up by the fourth alterations to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, particularly section 285. They submitted that section 285 had stripped the court of jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
Mohammed said the appeal was barred because the appellant did not appeal within 14 days from the date of judgement, being a pre-election matter under Section 285 of Fourth Alteration of the Constitution. He also submitted that the appellant did not appeal against the main decision of the trial court but wanted the decision to be upturned through technicality.
The main judgement of April 11 delivered by the trial court was not appealed against, he added.
According to Mohammed, “Appellant did not appeal against the substantive suit No FCT/HC/CV/3014/2018 delivered on 11th April 2019.
“Appellant only appealed against the ruling of January 2020 where the lower court refused appellant’s application to set aside the judgment.”
Mohammed further argued that the failure of Ubah to appeal against the judgement of April 11, 2019 amounted to an admission of facts canvassed by parties before the lower court.
He submitted that failure of the second respondent (YPP) to conduct a primary election into the Anambra South Senatorial District in furtherance of the 2019 general election as required by section 87(1) of the Electoral Act, 2015 as amended impeded “the locus standi of the appellant to challenge the judgement of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in suit no: FCT/HC/CV/3044/2018 and to even remain as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Anambra South Senatorial District.
The lawyer accordingly urged the court to affirm the judgement of Kawu and dismiss the appeal for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
After listening to the submissions of counsel in the matter, Adah announced that judgement had been reserved to a date that would be communicated to parties.
The 60 days provided by law for the Court of Appeal to hear and decide on the matter lapses this week, since the judgement of the lower court was delivered on January 17 and Ubah filed his appeal on January 20.