Written by From George Agba and Ahuraka Yusuf Isah, Abuja
Friday, 19 February 2010 19:26

After over three years of litigation, the Supreme Court yesterday put to rest the legal tango over the governorship seat of  Yobe State involving different suits instituted by Senator Usman Albishir against the election of the late governor, Mamman Ali, who was succeeded by his deputy, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam.

Five justices of the highest court in Nigeria dismissed an appeal brought by Senator Usman Albishir seeking to sustain a judgement of the Court of Appeal in Jos, Plateau State, which granted him leave to file his case out of time, on grounds that the appeal and other cases he filed before some courts in the country amounted to “litigation prostitution”.

They are Justices Dahiru Musdapher, George Adesola Oguntade, Francis Fedode Tabai, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad and Olufunlola Adekeye.

They told Albishir outrightly that a court of law “is not for gamblers or speculators” where anybody could come and waste the time of the court in the name of litigation.

In the 16-page judgement prepared by Justice George Oguntade and read by Justice Olufunlola Adekeye, the court said the 1st respondent (Albishir) and his counsel chose to abuse the administration of justice.

“Why would the 1st respondent whose case was struck out at the federal high court, Maiduguri, go to Federal High Court, Kaduna to seek relief, which he did not get in the Maiduguri federal high court?” Justice Adekeye queried.

She said, “As it turned out, he (Albishir) got a favourable judgement at the Federal High Court, Kaduna. If the Court of Appeal, Kaduna and this court which affirmed the judgement of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna had not seen through the games which the 1st respondent played with the administration of justice, he would have gotten his way.

“The same 1st respondent now says he wants to appeal out of time and ascribes as his excuse the explanation that he received conflicting advice from counsel. The relief derivable under Order 7 Rule 10 of the court of appeal rules is only available to persons who through inadvertence or some importunity are unable to promptly file their appeals within the time frame set under the Court of Appeal Act. It is not created as an alternative route of appeal for persons who have tried and failed through other procedures. It is not for gamblers or speculators.

“Surely if the Court of Appeal, Kaduna had not in its prudence allowed the appeal against the order made by the Federal High Court, Kaduna, the respondent would not have come back to seek extension of time to appeal against the order made by the Federal High Court, Kaduna and the 1st respondent would not have come back to seek extension of time to appeal before the court below. In other words, the 1st respondent was intent on using the court below as a backup or last resort, in the event he failed in his gamble.”

In dismissing Albishir’s appeal, her lordship ruled thus: “It is a correct statement that in the exercise of the power to grant extension of time to appeal, the court is called upon to exercise discretion.  The grant of extension of time ought not be done if the excuse offered is patently untrue or crafted to gain an undue advantage, as in this case.  In this appeal the 1st respondent has made appearance in virtually all the courts, including the election tribunals, Federal High Courts – Kaduna and Maiduguri, Courts of Appeal, Jos and Kaduna and finally this court.  He now seeks to be allowed to re-route and go back to the Court of Appeal, Jos.

“It is with respect that I think that the court below ought not have granted the 1st respondent leave sought to bring an appeal out of time.  To do so was to have allowed the 1st respondent the satisfaction that he succeeded in fooling everybody.  This appeal has immense merit.  The application by 1st respondent for extension of time to appeal ought to have been dismissed.  It is accordingly dismissed.  The appeal is allowed with N50,000.000 costs in favour of the appellant against the 1st respondent.”

Justice Aloysius Katsina -Alu had in striking out Al-Bishir’s first appeal, chided him saying, “What you are doing is an abuse of court process whether you like it or not and you cannot wriggle out of this.” Adding that Senator Al-Bashir is putting the apex court at conflict with the lower court, as the appeal was made on a case whose decision was yet to be taken by a court hearing it.

Responding to the judgement, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam said he is “pleased with, and grateful for, the overwhelming support that the people have shown and the prayers that they offered.”

The governor told a large crowd of ardent supporters and well-wishers yesterday at the Yobe State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro Abuja, that the apex court victory is from the Almighty Allah (SWT), who gives power to whom He pleases.

Besides, Gaidam assured the people of Yobe that his administration would remain dogged in its effort to transform the state and improve their living conditions.

Also, the Sarkin Yamma Potiskum in Yobe State, Alhaji Gidado Ibrahim, described the judgement of the apex court as victory for democracy, adding that the court had restored peace to the state. He urged the governor to “forge ahead, as the judicial pronouncement has done so much in paving the way for his second term bid in 2011″.

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