The Supreme Court of Nigeria on Thursday, declared Ikenga Ugochinyere as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the House of Representatives election for Ideato North and South Federal Constituency, Imo State.
The judgment of the Apex Court delivered by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun has finally put to rest, the chains of litigations seeking to upturn the result of the primary election that produced Ugochinyere, who is the spokesperson for the Coalition of United Political Parties.
Justice Kekere-Ekun in the judgment held that there must be an end to litigations and recklessness.
The Apex Court ruled, just like all the lower courts before it, that there were no grounds put before it, to nullify the ticket of the party won by Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, having fulfilled all the provisions of the law and complied with stipulated guidelines.
The judgment of the five-man panel of the Supreme Court was in an appeal marked SC/CV/1439/2022, filed by Hon. George Igbo challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal, Owerri Division.
Some of the respondents in the appeal were the PDP, Independent National Electoral Commission, Chidimma Uzomba, and Anthony Obinna, among others.
While dismissing the appeal by Igbo, Justice Kekere-Ekun upheld the preliminary objections raised by Ugochinyere and the PDP.
The Judge agreed with the decision of the Court of Appeal that the abysmal failure and/or refusal of the appellant counsel to comply with the rules of procedure in prosecuting the appeal and indeed abandoned same.
“The appellant filed his notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal on September 9, 2022 within the 14 days period from the date of judgment of the trial court as provided by the Electoral Act 2022 and section 285(9) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.
“Section 9 of the Election Judicial Proceedings Practice Direction, 2022 mandatorily provided that the Record of Appeal shall be compiled and served on all the parties not more than 10 days of the receipt of the Notice of Appeal.
“The Notice of Appeal at the Court of Appeal was filed on September 9, 2022.
“The Record of Appeal was compiled on September 19, 2022, 11 days after the notice of appeal was filed. One day out of time.
“The said record of appeal was served on the parties on October 19, 2022, 40 days after the Notice of Appeal was filed against the clear provision of Section 9 of the Election Judicial Proceeding Practice Directions 2022,” the Apex Court noted.
The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal was right in holding that the appellant’s appeal was deemed abandoned.
The Apex Court also admitted that it lacked the jurisdiction to determine the appeal or in the least invoke its general powers under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, to determine the real issues in controversy.
More so, in upholding the respondents’ objections, the Supreme Court admitted that by the provisions of Section 285 (12) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 21) Act, 2017, it is provided that “An appeal from a decision of a court in a pre-election matter shall be heard and disposed of within 60 days from the date of the filing of the appeal.”
At the Court of Appeal, the appeal of the present appellant was vide its Notice of Appeal filed on September 9, 2022 and the 60 days for the hearing and disposition of the Appeal by the Court of Appeal lapsed on November 7, 2022.
In addition, the Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal did not determine the appeal within the constitutional period of 60 days, “hence, there was no pending appeal relating to the merits of the case before this Honourable Court.”
More so, the Apex Court held in the affirmative that the law was settled that where the original jurisdiction in the lower court was extinct or had lapsed, the powers of the appellate court to exercise jurisdiction was a fortiori, extinct or non-existent as well.
“Hence, this Honourable Court cannot invoke its powers under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act,” it said.