Davidson Iriekpen writes that with the Court of Appeal ruling last Thursday Senator Ifeanyi Ubah has not only bounced back , but turned the heat on his accusers
The Court of Appeal in Abuja last Thursday rescued the Senator representing Anambra South senatorial district in the National Assembly, Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, when it voided an Abuja High Court’s judgment sacking from office in January. In a unanimous decision by a three-man panel of justices led by Justice Stephen Adah, the court held that the April 11, 2019, judgment of the lower court that removed him from the Senate, was based on incompetent processes. It noted that not only were the originating summons not duly signed by any legal practitioner as required by law, but that the High Court Rules made it mandatory that such legal document must be signed.
Justice Adah who read the lead judgment, said the High Court acted wrongly when it dismissed a motion Ubah filed to draw its attention to anomalies in the processes and the fact that he was not served with a copy of the suit that led to his removal from the Senate. He said the lower court had no powers to set-aside any of its order or judgment that is a nullity.
The appellate court judge held that Ubah’s suit was not caught up by section 285 of the 1999 Constitution which made it mandatory that an appeal must be lodged within 14 days after judgment was delivered. Besides, he said he found no evidence that Ubah was served with any hearing notice before the trial court delivered judgment against him.
The appellate court held that, “A document that is not signed is a worthless piece of paper that lacks integrity. Any breach of the right of the appellant, vitiated the entire proceeding. The right of fair hearing is very fundamental and very sacrosanct. Once it is breached in a proceeding, every order therefrom amounts to nullity.”
The Court of Appeal further held that the Abuja High Court lacked the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the suit that bordered on an election that was conducted in Anambra State. “
Aside vacating the judgment of the High Court, the Appeal Court issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Clerk of the National Assembly from giving any effect to it. It further awarded cost of N250,000 each, against the plaintiffs that filed the suit at the lower court, Mr. Anani Chuka and the senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Obinna Uzoh, who was a beneficiary of the judgment.
Ubah made history during the general elections by contesting on the platform of a relatively unknown party, YPP to sack an incumbent senator, Senator Andy Uba of APC, who also doubled as the state chairman of President Buhari campaign council in Anambra State. The Capital Oil boss, who polled 87,081 votes defeated the candidates of PDP, the All Progressives Congress (APC), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chiefs Chris Ubah, Andy Ubah, Nicholas Ukachukwu, who polled 52,462, 13,245 and 51,269 votes, respectively.
Ubah left APGA for YPP after the leaders of the former disqualified him from the primary election of the party to pave the way for the wife of the late leader of the party, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu, who also showed interest in the seat.
Both Chris Ubah and Andy Ubah did not take the defeat lightly. They proceeded to the Election Petitions Trbunal and Court of Appeal where they were roundly defeated.
Just as he was settling down to his senatorial duties, last January the media was ago with the news that he had lost his seat following a court ruling by an FCT High Court in Abuja, nullifying his election on the grounds that he forged the secondary school certificate he presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to contest the February 23, 2019 senatorial election on the platform of YPP.
Dr. Obinna Uzoh had dragged Ubah before the FCT High Court on the grounds that the National Examination Council (NECO) secondary school certificate he presented to INEC to contest the Anambra South senatorial election was forged. Uzoh in his suit, also argued that the YPP having not conducted the primary elections for its party for the Anambra South senatorial election, should be disqualified.
In his judgment, Justice Bello Kawu nullified Ubah’s election on the grounds that he forged the secondary school certificate he presented to INEC to contest the February 23, 2019 senatorial election. The judge declared that the 2nd defendant, YPP, did not have the locus standi and should not have participated in the February general election for Anambra South senatorial zone for its inability to conduct a primary election. He also declared that Uzoh is the actual winner of the election having come second position in the general election, and having the 1st and 2nd defendants disqualified for non-compliance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
Justice Kawu therefore, ordered the 3rd defendant, INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Uzoh, within 48 hours, as the duly elected senator for Anambra South senatorial district, being the candidate of the PDP and having scored the highest number of valid votes cast. He also ordered the Senate President and the Clerk to the National Assembly to swear in Uzoh as the senator representing Anambra South senatorial district within 48 hours.
The first sign that Ubah was going to win his appeal came when agents of the Federal Government filed a six-count charge against one of his traducers, Dr Obinna Uzoh, his counsel, Eziafa Enwedo, and three others before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja over alleged forgery of court documents and judgment. Others equally charged are Anani Chuka, Aroh Ifunanya and Faith Samuel.
The charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/78/2020, stated that the accused persons allegedly forged court processes and judgment in a cloned suit No. CV/3044/2018 at the FCT High Court, Kubwa to remove Ifeanyi Ubah from office as the duly elected senator representing Anambra South senatorial district.
The criminal charge followed investigations by the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) which unearthed the fraud, involving several judicial staff, lawyers and litigants.
The charge sheet alleged that all the processes filed in the said suit were forged including the judgment and that the purported filing fee receipt which was originally dated September 25, 2019, was mutilated to read October 19, 2018. The suspects were alleged to have mutilated the court register and cloned Suit No. CV/3044/2018, which was allotted in 2018 to S & M Holdings Limited vs person unknown filed on October 17, 2018, and affixed Suit No. CV/3044/2018 to Anani Chuka vs Ifeanyi Ubah & Ors.
The suspects were also alleged to have forged the assignment directive of the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court to purportedly assign the matter to Justice Kawu. A copy of the investigation report and charge sighted by THISDAY showed that the suspects forged all the processes purportedly filed in the suit with a view to obtaining a judgment in a false pre-election matter filed in 2019 but backdated to 2018.
For the alleged ignoble role Justice Kawu played in the saga, YPP has taken up the matter with a petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC), demanding that he be disciplined and sanctioned. The party accused the judge of engaging in misconduct and acts capable of tarnishing the image of the judiciary, adding that the alleged misconduct, was “unbecoming of a judicial officer and has brought shame and disgrace to the judiciary.”
In the petition, signed by the National Secretary of YPP, dated March 16, 2020, the party alleged that, “The act of Justice Kawu has brought odium and shame to the judiciary and we, as a matter of necessity must bring such shameful and dishonourable conduct to the attention of the NJC.”
The party stated that the facts giving rise to this petition arose from a purported pre-election matter with Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/3044/2018 purportedly filed by one Anani Anacletus Chuka which was purportedly commenced on October 19, 2018, and a purported application for joinder in the same suit also purportedly filed on the 27th March 2019, by Obinna Uzoh which was heard and granted on April 1, 2019, about 36 days after elections were held and result announced.
On April 1, 2019, YPP held that Uzoh purportedly filed a counter-affidavit and Written Address to the Originating Summons and that on April 11, 2019, Justice Kawu purportedly delivered judgment in Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/3044/2018 dismissing the claimant’s reliefs but surprisingly granted the reliefs sought by the said Uzoh in his final written address even though Uzoh upon his joinder did not file a counterclaim or a cross-claim as a respondent seeking the reliefs purportedly granted to him by the judge.
It said it became aware of the said judgment in October 2019 when Uzoh sought to enforce the judgment he purportedly obtained on April 11, 2019 at INEC, a period of over six months from the date the said judgment was purportedly delivered.
According to the party, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah instructed his legal team led by Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) to file an application before the court to set aside its judgment that was delivered without jurisdiction and in breach of the parties’ right to a fair hearing and that, on January 17, 2020, the trial court dismissed the application.
The party concluded that it was in the course of doing this that a web of lies, deceit and fraud was discovered.
For now, it is not clear where the case is going – whether Obinna Uzor would appeal the Court of Appeal decision or not. What many observers have believe is that efforts to evict Ubah from the Senate are part of a grand plot targeting the 2021 governorship election in Anambra State.
The first sign that Ubah was going to win his appeal came when agents of the Federal Government filed a six-count charge against one of his traducers, Dr Obinna Uzoh, his counsel, Eziafa Enwedo, and three others before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja over alleged forgery of court documents and judgment. Others equally charged are Anani Chuka, Aroh Ifunanya and Faith Samuel