The Supreme Court on Friday in Abuja upheld the order of a Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, nullifying the All Progressives Congress primaries in Rivers State.
The trial court had held that the primaries were held in disobedience to a court judgement barring the party from conducting congresses pending the determination of a suit filed by 22 aggrieved members of the party.
The Apex Court in its judgement set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, which in October 2018 upturned the interlocutory order of the High Court.
In a unanimous verdict by a five-man panel of Justices, the Supreme Court said the judgement sought to be upturned was entered by consent and could not be appealed as a matter of right.
The Supreme Court invoked section 22 of its Act allowing it to take over a matter and give a final judgment to decide on the appeal.
In a lead judgement delivered by Justice Sidi Barge, the Apex Court held that by virtue of section 11 Rule 5 of the Supreme Court rules, the appeal against the High Court ruling, having been withdrawn by the APC, was bound to be dismissed.
Justice Barge said since the Court of Appeal failed or evaded to make dismissal pronouncement for the said appeal, the apex court had no choice but to invoke section 22 of the Supreme Court Act to assume jurisdiction over the case and decide on it.
He said, “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 The appeal, having been withdrawn at the lower court by the respondent, is deemed distilled.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 dated October 31, 2018. I hereby dismiss Appeal No CA/PH/198/2018, same having been validly withdrawn.”
At the trial court, the plaintiffs led by Ibrahim Umar on May 11, 2018, secured the interim injunction, which restrained the APC from going ahead with the indirect primaries on May 19, 20 and 21, which produced Tonye Cole as its governorship candidate and other candidates to represent the party in the 2019 general elections.
The APC had through its lawyer, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), sought 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 including Tonye Cole’s name.
The Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led APC had appealed the ruling of Justice Chiwendu Nwogu, which nullified the APC’s congresses in Rivers State and the nomination of Tonye Cole as the party’s governorship candidate.
The Federal High Court had restrained INEC from recognising any candidate of the APC for the elections.
The court also nullified all nominations of the APC in the state for the elections.
The court ruled specifically that the APC could not participate in the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections during the polls in the state.
Justice Kolawole Omotosho, in his judgement in a suit filed by Senator Magnus Abe and others against the Rivers State APC and others declared that the party failed to respect the law and must bear the consequences.
Abe sued the APC in the last quarter of 2018 alleging that the party’s primaries in the state were marred by irregularities.
Omotosho held that the direct and indirect primaries of the party were illegal, null and void.
According to him, the APC conducted the indirect primaries in gross disrespect of the pending suit before Justice Chinwendu Nwogu of the state High Court.
He noted that the judgment of Justice Chinwendu Nwogu nullifying the primaries of the APC in Rivers had yet to be set aside by an appellate court, hence it remained valid.
The judge held that the names sent by the Rotimi Amaechi faction and the National Working Committee of the APC to INEC for the elections were illegal and should be disregarded.
He also said the direct primaries conducted by the Abe faction were illegal.
He said both factions had no leg to stand in view of the judgment, hence both factions were disqualified from participating in the elections.