The Supreme Court of Nigeria on Thursday declared Barrister Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere as the authentic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, 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 the legal practitioner.
Justice Kekere-Ekun in the judgment held that there must be an end to litigations and recklessness.
The apex court, just like all the lower courts before it, said that there are 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.
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court gave the judgement on an appeal marked SC/CV/1439/2022, filed by Hon. George Igbo (appellant) challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal, Owerri Division.
Some of the respondents in the appeal are the PDP, Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Mrs Chidimma Uzomba and Mr Anthony Obinna among others.
In dismissing the appeal, Justice Kekere-Ekun upheld the preliminary objections raised by Ugochinyere and the PDP.
The Justice agreed with the decision of the Court of Appeal that blamed the abysmal failure and, or, refusal of the appellant counsel to comply with the rules of procedure in prosecuting the Appeal.
“The Appellant filed his notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal on the 9th day of September 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 the 9th day of September 2022.
“The Record of Appeal was compiled on the 19th day of September 2022, eleven days after the notice of appeal was filed. One day out of time. See the admission of the appellant on page 1639 of the Record of Appeal Vol. 3.
“The said record of appeal was served on the parties on the 19th day of October 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 is deemed abandoned.
It further admitted that it lacked the jurisdiction to determine the appeal or at 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 vided 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 noted in affirmative that the law is settled that where the original jurisdiction in the lower court is extinct or had lapsed, the powers of the Appellate Court to exercise jurisdiction is a fortiori, extinct or non-existent as well.
“Hence, this Honourable Court cannot invoke its powers under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act,” Justice Kekere-Ekun ruled.