Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Court of Appeal, Abuja yesterday set aside the judgment of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which ordered the removal of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) from office as Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District at the National Assembly.
Justice Stephen Adah, who delivered the unanimous judgment of the three-man panel held that the judgment of the lower court was given without jurisdiction and therefore a nullity. The appellate court decided that the April 11, 2019, judgement of Justice Bello Kawu of the Abuja High Court that removed Ubah from the Senate, was based on incompetent court processes. The court stated that the Originating Summon was not duly signed by any legal practitioner as required by law. The appellate court, said the High Court rules made it mandatory that such legal document must be signed.
According to Justice Adah, “Validity of an Originating Process is a sine qua non. A document that is not signed is a worthless piece of paper that lacks integrity”.
He stated that the lower court was wrong when it dismissed a motion Ubah filed to draw its attention to anomalies in the processes and the fact that he was not served with a copy of the suit that led to his removal from the Senate. Justice Adah held that the High Court had the powers to set-aside any of its order or judgement that is a nullity.
The Judge held that “The lower court which gave a void decision was not functus-officio to set-aside its order that is a nullity.”
He said that Ubah’s suit was not caught up by section 285 of the 1999 Constitution which made it mandatory that an appeal must be lodged within 14 days after judgement was delivered.
Besides, the appellate court said it found no evidence that Ubah was served with any Hearing Notice before the trial court delivered judgement against him.
“Any breach of the right of the Appellant, vitiated the entire proceeding. The right of fair hearing is very fundamental and very sacrosanct. Once it is breached in a proceeding, every order therefrom amounts to nullity”.
Aside vacating the judgement of the High Court, the Appeal Court issued an Order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the Clerk of the National Assembly from giving any effect to it.
The appellate court further awarded cost of N250, 000 each, against the plaintiff that filed the suit at the lower court, Mr. Anani Chuka and the senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Obinna Uzoh, who was a beneficiary of the judgement.
It will be recalled that Justice Bello Kawu of the FCT High at Kubwa, had in his judgement, sacked Ubah from the Senate over the allegation that he used a forged National Examination Council, NECO, certificate to contest the senatorial election that held in Anambra South on February 23, 2019.