…Court fixes judgment for Feb 7, 2014
BEVERLY HILLS, CA, November 11, (THEWILL) – In a new twist to the Rivers State crisis, the national leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Monday aligned itself with the sacked governor of Rivers State, Celestine Omehia, in asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeals filed by the embattled state governor, Rotimi Amaechi, and a chieftain of the party, Cyprian Chukwu, on the renewed dispute over Amaechi’s tenure.
The duo of Amaechi and Chukwu, are, by their appeals before the Supreme Court, seeking to void the leave granted Omehia by the Court of Appeal, Abuja to appeal an earlier judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja in respect of when Amaechi’s first tenure ought to end.
Recall that Chukwu had, three years ago , applied to the Federal High Court, Abuja for the interpretation of the 2007 judgment by Supreme Court in determining when election was due in Rivers State in 2011.
Also recall that Omehia was removed from office as Rivers State governor in 2007 on the basis of the Supreme Court judgment and Amaechi made the governor in October 2007.
In deciding Chukwu’s case, Justice Abdulkadir Abdul- Kafarati of the Federal High Court, held that by virtue of the Supreme Court’s judgment, Amaechi’s first tenure ended on May 28, 2011 and not in October 2011.
The presiding judge also held that since the apex court had held that it was the PDP that won the election, and the election having not been set aside, the tenure began to run on May 29, 2007 even though Omehia wrongly occupied the office.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was to appeal the judgment and shortly after , Omehia, who was not a party in the suit at the trial court applied to the Court of Appeal to be made a party to enable him also appeal the judgment.
And in spite of opposition by Amaechi and Chukwu, the Appellate court granted Omehia’s prayer, a decision they both (Amaechi and Chukwu) found objectionable and consequently appealed to the Supreme Court, questioning the rationale upon which the Appeal Court allowed Omehia to join.
On Monday, parties to the suit adopted their briefs of argument, following which the court adjourned to February 7 next year for judgment.
The PDP which had at the Court of Appeal opposed Omehia’s moves to be made a party, on Monday , made a u-turn and chose to align with Omehia in urging the court to dismiss both appeals.
Counsels to Amaechi and Chukwu, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN and Rickey Tarfa, SAN drew the Supreme Court’s attention to a change in the position of the lawyer representing the PDP, Olusola Oke.
Fagbemi and Tarfa wondered why Oke appeared to have changed his position having earlier aligned with them at the lower courts.
Oke had, while adopting his briefs, urged the court to dismiss both appeals and uphold the decision of the appellate court, which granted Omehia leave to appeal the judgment by Justice Abdul-Kafarati.
He urged the Supreme Court to ignore the technicalities raised by the appellants in seeking to void the leave granted Omehia.
Oke argued that the Court of Appeal was in order in granting Omehia leave.
Earlier, Tarfa had urged the court to allow the appeal and void the leave granted Omehia on the ground that the appellate court acted in error.
He argued that Omehia did not place sufficient materials before the court to warrant the granting of the leave granted him.
Tarfa further argued that Omehia’s application was wrongly filed because he applied for permission about 200 days after the trial court delivered its judgment.
Fagbemi argued that as an interested party, who sought to appeal the decision of a case he did not participate in at the trial stage, Omehia failed to comply with the necessary constitutional requirements.
He also questioned Omehia’s locus to appeal the trial court judgement on the ground that he failed to satisfy the court that he had a special interest to protect.
According to him, Omehia’s claim to being interested in contesting the 2011 governorship election was not a sufficient ground for the appellate court to have granted him leave because he was just one out of the several people who were interested in contesting the election.
Fagnemi argued that Omehia hid, from the court, the fact that he actually participated in the 2011 election under the banner of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
He said having enjoyed the benefit of the trial court’s judgment by contesting the 2011 governorship under APGA, he could not now turn around to attack the same judgment.
Fagbemi also argued that Omehia was left with no interest to protect, having contested the 2011 election under another party.
Omehia’s lawyer, Nnaemeka Udechukwu, SAN, argued in similar manner with Oke and prayed the court to dismiss the appeals.
Udechukwu said Omehia was a party in the Supreme Court judgment which the high court interpreted and that his client was adversely affected by the Supreme Court judgment.
In an affidavit he deposed to by himself, Omehia said: “I am dissatisfied with the judgment of the lower court and wish to appeal against same as a person interested in the matter, and in the office of governor of Rivers State which form the basis of my interest as well as a person interested in the interpretation of a judgment in which I was a principal party.”
The sacked governor also said that he wanted to seek election as governor of River State under APGA and that for these two reasons , he deserved to be given the chance to challenge the judgment of the high court which he described as incorrect.
He alleged that Cyprian Chukwu who filed the case at High Court and described himself as a governorship aspirant was a mere front for Amaechi whom, he said, wanted election to be held in Rivers during the April general election at all cost.