Walter Onnoghen and Tanko Muhammad
Walter Onnoghen and Tanko Muhammad

Apex Court Upholds judgement nullifying APC Primaries in Rivers
The Supreme Court in Abuja upheld the order of a federal high court sitting in Port-Harcourt which last year barred the All Progressive Congress (APC) from conducting any primary election pending the determination of a suit brought before it by a team of 22 aggrieved members of the party.

The Apex Court, in a judgment set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeal in Port-Harcourt which in October last year upturned the interlocutory order of the high court in the political case.

In a unanimous verdict by a five-man panel of Justices, the Supreme Court refused to tamper with the high court judgment that ab-initio barred the APC from conducting its Ward, Local Government and State congresses in Rivers State, pending the determination of a suit that was filed by 22 aggrieved chieftains of the party.

The plaintiffs led by Ibrahim Umar, had on May 11, 2018, secured an interim injunction from a High Court in Port Harcourt, which restrained the APC from going ahead with the indirect primaries that held on May 19, 20 and 21 respectively which produced Tonye Cole as governorship candidate and other candidates to represent the party in the 2019 general elections.

The APC had through its lawyer, Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN, begged the Supreme Court to clear legal impediments against the faction loyal to the minister of transportation Mr. Rotimi Ameachi and allow its list of candidates that contained Tonye Cole’s name.

But the request was rejected by the panel of the apex court led by Justice Mohammad Dattijo, which rather re-affirmed its previous ruling that validated the high court verdict the order that barred APC from conducting its Rivers primaries.

The Supreme Court invoked section 22 of its Act which allows it to take over a matter and give final judgment to decide on the appeal.

In a lead judgment delivered by Justice Sidi Barge, the Apex Court held that by virtue of section 11 rule 5 of the Appeal Court rules, the appeal against the high court ruling having been withdrawn by the APC is tantamount to outright dismissal.

Justice Barge said that since the Court of Appeal failed or evaded to make dismissal pronouncement for the said appeal, the Apex Court has no choice than to invoke section 22 of the Supreme Court act to assume jurisdiction over the case and decide on it.

According to him “it is my considered opinion that this appeal must be given a decent burial. The appeal having been withdrawn at the lower court by the respondent is deemed distilled.

“This is what the lower court failed or evaded to do.”Therefore by virtue of section 22 of the Supreme Court Act 2004, the lower court having failed to exercise its powers provided under order 11 rule 5, this court is bound to do so.

“Thus I’ll allow, the appeal and set aside the ruling of the lower court Court dated October 31, 2018. I hereby dismiss Appeal No CA/PH/198/2018, same having been validly withdrawn.

The Ojukaye Flag-Amachree’s led APC had appealed the ruling of Justice Chiwendu Nwogu, which nullified the APC state congresses and the nomination of Tonye Cole as the party’s governorship flag bearer in the forthcoming general elections.

Justice Chiwendu Nwogu of a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt in Rivers State granted an interlocutory order on May 11, 2018 restraining the APC from conducting any local government area congresses in the state.

The appeal was however withdrawn on the order of the National Secretariat of APC at the Court of Appeal but the court refused to dismiss it as required by law.

In the appeal to the Supreme Court filed by Ibrahim Umar on behalf of their faction, the Supreme Court agreed with them that the appeal of the APC at the Court of Appeal, having been withdrawn was liable to dismissal and not striking out.

With the decision of the Apex Court, the hope of APC in fielding candidates for the forthcoming election appears to have hit the rock.

By PRNigeria