By Akon Etumukwa
The Supreme Court has struck out the main appeal of the All Progressives Congress, APC, challenging the judgement of a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt which barred the party from proceeding with the conduct of its congresses and primary elections.
A panel of five Justices of the Apex Court unanimously ruled Yesterday that the appeal with suit number SC1333/2018 was a pre-election matter and filed behind schedule, coming after 14 days required by law.
The judgment, which was read by Justice Amir Sanusi, comes barely four days to the commencement of the 2019 election, and thus dashes the hope of the APC in Rivers State from fielding candidates for the Saturday February, 16 National Assembly election.
Justice Sanusi announced that reasons for the judgment will be given on a day to be announced to the parties later.
Earlier on Monday, Counsel to Ibrahim Umah, who was joined in the suit with 22 others, Barr H.A Bello SAN, filed a preliminary objection against the application, maintaining that the appeal was status barred and a mere academic exercise, urging the court to strike it out.
However, Counsel to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi SAN argued that the suit that brought the appeal was not a pre-election matter as it concerned only the selection of delegates who are to vote in the primary elections.
Umah and 22 others believed to be loyal to Senator Magnus Abbe had filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt to challenge their unlawful exclusion by the Rotimi Amaechi faction of the APC from participating in the Congresses of the party designed to produce delegates for the primary elections.
Justice Chiwendu of the Federal High Court had in his judgement upheld the claims of the group and barred the APC from proceedings with the conduct of the Congresses and the primary Election.
The APC however went ahead with the primary Election and later appealed against the decision of the trial Court at the Port Harcourt division of the Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, the Apex Court has also struck out an appeal which sought the Court to recognize the Fred Amachree-led Executive of the party and two other consolidated appeals filed by the party.
The three suits with numbers SC/1332/2018; SC/1334/2018 and SC/81/2019 were struck out on the ground that they were status barred because of the function of time.
Justice Augie said from available records the appellants were not parties at the trial Court as well as the court of Appeal and as such cannot get remedy from the Supreme Court.
By this judgment, Tonye Patrick Cole cannot also be considered as the candidate of the APC to the governorship election in Rivers.
As explained by Counsel to Senator Magnus Abe, Barr H.A Bello SAN, subject to the determination of an appeal at the Appeal Court during the week, the Abe-led faction look likely to be recognized.
While striking out the three consolidated appeals, through a unanimous decision of the five Justices, Justice Amina Augie, explained that appeals were struck out on the grounds that they were standing on nothing because they were filed out of time.