Written by Lanre Adewole:
The ghost of 2007 presidential election came to hunt ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua on Friday as the Supreme Court ordered the Court of Appeal serving as the presidential election petition tribunal to commence a fresh trial into a petition filed by the presidential candidate of People’s mandate Party, Dr. Arthur Nwankwo, challenging the election of the president.
The apex court remitted the petition to the lower court while delivering judgement in an appeal filed by Nwankwo against the decision of the lower court stopping him from presenting a motion after the pre-hearing conference.
In the lead judgement delivered by Justice Ikechi Francis Ogbuagu, the apex court also held that all motions and preliminary objections according to the practice direction guiding election petition tribunal must be taken and considered during the pre-hearing conference stage and not after it.
The appellant had, at the lower court, sought to present a motion after pre-hearing conference, which was refused by the court.
Following this, the appellant came to the Supreme Court to challenge the lower court’s decision which judgment was delivered yesterday and the apex court upheld the decision of the court of appeal and ordered the petition back to the court of appeal for retrial.
The five-man panel of the Supreme Court presided over by Justice Ikechi Francis Ogbuagu in delivering the judgment, noted that no court could hear any matter, motion or application if it did not have jurisdiction to do so, otherwise, the outcome of such hearing would be a nullity.
“The best thing to do is to remit the matter to the trial court. In conclusion, the appeal is allowed” even as the court awarded cost of N50, 000 in favour of appellant against each of the respondents.
Responding to the judgment, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chief Godwin Kanu Agabi (SAN), said that the judgment would help other cases in future as well as expanding the frontiers of the nation’s jurisprudence.
He re-echoed the pronouncement of the apex court that once there was a provision for the proper way of doing something, no other way would be adopted in doing that thing aside from the laid down procedure provided for such.
He added that the practice direction in handling election petition matters must be obeyed even though the only option for the appellant was to comply with the order of the Supreme Court in commencing the case again at the trial court.
The presidential candidate of PMP had gone to the court of appeal seeking to annul the election of President Umaru Yar’Adua and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, alleging that the process that brought them to power contravened the electoral laws.
He claimed electoral inconsistencies and irregularities in the said polls and concluded that the best thing for the court to do was to pronounce the election a nullity.
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