The Supreme Court will on February 7, 2014 deliver judgement on the appeal filed by the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, seeking to nullify a ruling of a Court of Appeal Abuja, which gave the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) governorship candidate for the state, Celestine Omehia, the right to challenge a judgment of the Federal High Court which held that Amaechi’s tenure ended on May 29, 2011.
Chief Lateef Fagbemi SAN is counsel to Amaechi, the appellant in SC 336/2012 and 2nd respondent in SC111/2012; Omehia is 1st respondent in SC111/2012 and 3rd respondent in SC 336/2012 and is being represented by Nnoruka Udechukwu. Olusola Oke is counsel to PDP and represents the 3rd respondent in SC111/2012 and 4th respondent in SC 336/2012; while Ricky Tafa is counsel to the applicant (Cyprian Chukwu) in SC111/2012 and 2nd respondent in SC 336/2012. J .M Majiabi represents (INEC) 1st respondent and 3rd respondent in SC111/2012 and SC 336/2012 respectively.
Tafa’s (appellant) brief in SC111was dated January 15, 2013 but filed on the 17th while his reply brief to the 4th respondent dated September 3, 2013; his reply brief to the 3rd respondent dated November 7 but filed on the 8th was deemed as properly served by the panel yesterday.
He adopted the said appellant’s brief and reply brief as his argument and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought therein, just as he blamed the 4th respondent for the delay.
Fagbemi on behalf of the appellant in SC336 said he filed three processes; the 1st was dated November 15, 2012 but properly filed January 21, 2013; the 2nd was his reply brief dated February 20, 2013 and the appellant’s reply brief to the 4th respondent’s brief.
“Under Section 243, if you are not a party to proceeding, you can only lodge an appeal with leave of court and it is after granting of the leave, you can join. Under Section 241, you can as of right if you are already a party but once time within which to appeal expires, you cannot, Fagbemi stated.
In addition to seek court’s leave to appeal as interested party, Fagbemi said there must be a trinity prayer, pointing out that the implication is that if a person wants to come in, 90 days has already expired.
Another point he raised was that Omehia has no interest in the matter capable of according him locus, insisting that he cannot unlock the door and come into the case.
He therefore urged the panel to allow the appeal and also set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, adding that “Omehia has to show that his interest is far and above the interest of other candidates or members of a community in the matter.
In respect toSC336, in which Chukwu is the 2nd respondent, Tafa said he did not file any brief as he was not opposed to the appeal and therefore urged the court to allow the appeal.
In respect of SC111, Oke said the 3rd respondent brief was dated November 4, 2013 but deemed properly filed yesterday and therefore adopted it as his argument.
In SC336, he said the 4th respondent’s brief dated November 4, 2013 but deemed properly filed yesterday; he adopted it and prayed the Supreme Court to dismiss the two appeals as lacking in merit.
Oke invited the court to note “that parties are in agreement that a party appealing as interested party does not have a time limit within which to exercise the right of appeal under Section 243 of the Constitution.
He said the position was expressly made by Fagbemi in the appellant’s reply brief in SC 336.
“We agreed with the 2nd point, under Section 243, all that is required of an interested appellant is to seek leave of the appropriate court as an interested party. Relief two in the application granted by the Court of Appeal was for leave to appeal as an interested party and it meets the requirements of Section 243.
Oke stated that “unless an appeal is brought pursuant to Section 242 of the Constitution, trinity prayer is not required with regards to Sections 241 and 243. Therefore, the appellant’s submission that the 1st respondent ought to have sought trinity prayer is not sustainable.
On issue two, he said a person that is likely to be affected by an outcome of a proceeding is a interested party, saying that the interpretation sought by the appellant on whether the election was due when it was conducted is bound to affect Omehia.
He therefore posited that the appellate court was right to hold that Omehia be joined as interested party, and therefore urged the panel to dismiss the two appeals.
Udechukwu said he filed his reply brief in SC111 on March 22, 2013 just as he aligned and adopted the argument of Oke and prayed that the appeal should be dismissed.