S-Court dashes ACN’s bid to sack Governor AkpabioAkwa Ibom, Headlines, Judiciary, State News Saturday, June 2nd, 2012
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
…dismisses Akpanudoedeghe’s petition
The Supreme Court, yesterday, quashed moves by the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, to sack Governor Goodswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State through the election petition tribunal.
ACN, alongside its candidate during the last governorship election, Senator James John Akpanudoedehe, challenged the decision of the Court of Appeal in Calabar which affirmed the judgement of the Election Petition Tribunal that dismissed their petition on the premise that it was not heard and determined within 180 days as stipulated in Section 285 (6) of the 1999 Constitutionin at the apex court .
The appellants also asked the Supreme Court to reverse itself on the decision it took in the Borno State governorship election appeal where it dismissed the petition of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Governorship candidate, Alhaji Mohammed Goni on the basis of the same issue of 180 days deadline, pointing out that the decision was reached per-incuriam as the court failed to consider the effect of its interpretation of section of the constitution vis-a-vis the tenets of justice and fair hearing which they said the constitution upholds.
The Supreme Court, presided by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, had on November 14, 2011, ordered the constitution of a new tribunal to conduct de-novo (fresh) hearing on the substantive petition of the ACN.
The apex court gave the directive after voiding the dismissal of the petition by the initial panel of justices that presided over the Akwa Ibom State governorship election petition tribunal sitting at Uyo.
While ordering re-trial of the petition on its merit, the apex court at that time, nullified the judgment of the appellate court that affirmed the election of Akpabio.
A three-man panel of justices of the appellate court had in its unanimous judgment, read by Justice M.A Oredola, upheld the decision of the tribunal, maintaining that the ACN, failed to comply with the provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended), particularly paragraph 47 (1).
“The trial tribunal cannot be faulted for invoking the provisions of the Electoral Act,” the Appeal Court said, pointing out that the petition of the ACN candidate was incurably defective as it equally failed to meet the provisions set out in paragraph 18 (4) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
But the Supreme Court then faulted both the tribunal and the appellate court for relying on technicalities to dismiss the petition, however, barely few days after the case was re-opened, the 180-days deadline provided in section 285(6) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, for determination of such disputes, elapsed, thereby resulting in the second dismissal of the petition.
Delivering the lead judgment on the ACN’s appeal yesterday, Justice Mary Odili, stressed that the Supreme Court lacked the powers to order the tribunal to sit beyond the time frame that was specifically provided for in the Constitution.
She said that the issue of fair hearing could only be applied when the matter is still alive, saying the instant case was already dead.
The court said it could not do what the appellant sought especially as there was no foundation to review its earlier decision in Goni’s case as far as the 180 days which the Electoral Act provided for the determination of election petition is concerned.
“There is no foundation upon which this court can do what the appellant is asking us to, this appeal is an abuse of court process and it has become a mere academic exercise, it is hereby dismissed and all parties should bear their cost”.
However, Counsel to Akpabio, Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN, earlier queried the competence of the suit, pointing out that the appeal was a flagrant abuse of court process in all ramifications as the court had already laid the issue of the 180 days to rest, noting also that the intention of the appellant was to turn the court to a legislature with the powers to alter the constitution.
A seven- man panel of justices of the apex court led by Justice Christopher Chukwuma Eneh, endorsed the judgment.
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