Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt has granted stay-of-execution on the judgement of Justice Kolawole Omotosho of the Federal High Court, which nullified all primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and also restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from fielding the party’s candidates in the forthcoming 2019 elections.
Justice James Omotosho of the FHC had ruled that the APC, following the internal party crisis rocking it, should not field candidates for the election.
The faction of the party loyal to the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, had approached the Appeal Court praying the court for an order to stay the execution of the lower court to allow them to participate in the elections
The three-man appeal panel led by Justice Ali Gumel, which had reserved ruling for Monday, after hearing the matter last week, held that it would be an act of injustice and unfair if the order was not granted.
Reading the ruling, Justice Yusuf Mustafa Yusuf stated that the stay of execution must be granted based on the facts that party seeking it was opposed to the judgement of the Federal High Court.
Mustafa said that the court has jurisdiction to hear the matter against the position of the respondent’s counsel, Henry Bello.
On the argument of Bello that the court cannot stay execution on the matter in which action has been completed, Yusuf ruled that it was not in the position of the court to declare an event completed when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which is a party in the matter had not affirmed such.
He held that the court considered the affidavit and responses of the parties, adding that every case is decided on its peculiarity and thereby stayed the execution of the judgement of the FHC.
However, speaking with newsmen after the judgement, Mr Chimenem, Wisdom Jerome, counsel for APC candidates, who held brief for Lateef Fagbemi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said that with the judgement, INEC would bring back APC candidates on the list for the 2019 elections.
On his part, counsel for Magnus Abe, Patrick Luke, and 42 others in the suit CA3/37/2019, maintained that the court ruled in error saying: “The appellant asked for a stay of execution of judgement of the Federal High Court delivered on January 7, 2019. They also asked for a restraining order.
“The implication is that legally speaking, you cannot order for a stay of execution on a completed act. The art they sort to stay is for INEC to remove the name of the candidate of APC from their lists, that act has already been completed.
Reacting to the judgement, the spokesman for Amaechi’s faction, Chris Finebone, said: “We have always said that the wheel of justice may grind slowly, sometimes annoyingly slowly, but surely justice comes ultimately. We believe that today’s judgement has vindicated APC in Rivers State.
“Now, anyone who has carefully and painstakingly followed our pending matter at the Supreme Court, especially, during the last sitting before the apex court’s reserved ruling, will easily and safely conclude that our victory at the Supreme Court is only a matter of time.
“All Rivers APC faithful should remain resolute as we are set to recover all that Satan has battled so hard to take away from us.
“INEC, by today’s Appeal Court ruling, should by now be reinstating our candidates’ names on the ballot in line with the status quo before the pronouncement by the Federal High Court of Justice Omotoso.