In the midst of the hot politics in Rivers state and series of problems facing the governor, the Supreme Court will today hear the appeal filed by the embattled Governor Chibuike Amaechi against legal moves by his political rival and former governor, Celestine Omehia to unseat him from office.
Before fixing the date at the instance of counsel to Omehia, Chief Udechukwu Nnoruka Undechukwu,at the last adjourned date, five jJustices of the apex court led by Justice Walter Onnoghen consolidated the multiple appeals brought in respect of his re-election that took place in April 2011 as against August 2011.
Justice Onnoghen said he was reluctant in granting the adjournment in view of the fact that the matter being a political case, was time bound and needed to be dispensed with expeditiously.
He wondered why Omehia, who had previously accused the appellant (Amaechi) of delay tactics would turn around to delay the hearing of the appeal.
Although it was Governor Amaechi that approached the court to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal to join the sacked governor, Celestine Omehia, in the substantive appeal before it. Other parties in the mater also followed him to the apex court with their own appeals.
The genesis of the present appeal was when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2010 published a timetable for the 2011 general election and the governorship election in Rivers State was slated for August 2011.
The election timetable released by the electoral body also affected five other states, whose governors then, were seeking tenure elongation and were caught up in the staggered elections which the 2007 electoral disputes foisted on the polity.
Prompted by this development, Governor Amaechi’s legal adviser, Chief Cyprian Chukwu filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja against the governor and INEC, contending that the date fixed by the INEC’s timetable was wrong.
The fulcrum of his suit was that since the Supreme Court decision which brought Amaechi to power in 2007 was that it was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that won the April 2007 governorship election in Rivers State, Amaechi’s tenure started counting on May 29, 2007 and not on October 27, 2007 when he was sworn in after Omehia was sacked.
In his judgment, Justice Abdul Kafarati back dated Amaechi’s tenure and said even though the governor was sworn in on October 26, 2007, his tenure would end on May 28, 2011 or May 2015 as the case may be. His reasoning was that since the Supreme Court said it was the PDP that won the April 2007 governorship election in Rivers State, and not the candidate (Amaechi), the tenure started counting on May 29, 2007 when Omehia was sworn in.
The judge held that the period spent in office by Omehia, who was sacked by the Supreme Court, formed part of Amaechi’s tenure of four years, adding that it was wrong in law for the governor to expect that his tenure elongation would run till October 2011 because his election of April 14, 2007 under PDP platform was never nullified by any court.
The judge ruled that the Supreme Court in its judgment in October 2007 only asked Omehia to vacate office on account of illegal occupation for the rightful person and never cancelled the poll or ordered any fresh election.