Court of Appeal, sitting in Port Harcourt, has upheld the ruling of the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal, recognising Henry Bello as the authentic counsel for the African Action Congress (AAC) in the appeal filed by the defeated Rivers State AAC governorship candidate, Biokpomabo Awara.
The defeated AAC governorship candidate, Awara, through his counsel, Tawo Tawo (SAN), in suit number CA/PH/PHT/356/2019, urged the Court of Appeal to stop Bello from representing the AAC in the governorship petition.
Delivering the lead judgement, Justice Hamma Barka struck out the AAC interlocutory appeal on the grounds that the appellant has no locus standi to file the appeal as he was no longer the counsel for AAC.
The Court of Appeal also ruled that the appeal filed by the defeated Rivers AAC governorship candidate was incompetent, having been filed without prior leave of court.
Also, the court noted that judgement of a court was sacrosanct, which all parties were bound to obey. It emphasised that AAC has right to change its counsel based on the judgement of the Federal High Court, which recognised Leonard Nzenwa as the national chairman of the party.
Bello filed a preliminary objection on the premise of Section 242 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), saying the appeal was incompetent.
Counsel for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Steve Adave (SAN), said the decision of the Court of Appeal laid to rest the issue of representation in the suit filed by the AAC governorship candidate.
AAC counsel, Bello, said the party sacked Omoyele Sowore and elected Leonard Nzenwo, who subsequently appointed Bello as the authentic counsel of the party. He said the ruling of the Court of Appeal was in consonance with the constitution, which gave the individuals the right to choose their counsel.
In a preliminary objection, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike counsel, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), argued that the appellant was not a person affected by the decision or ruling of the tribunal and accordingly, has no locus standi or competence to appeal the judgement of the tribunal.
Ukala further argued that the appellant’s appeal has been mooted and rendered academic by subsequent events, including the striking out of the substantive appeal by the tribunal.
Mark Agwu, who spoke on behalf of Ukala, said the ruling has proved that the appeal was a mere academic exercise and lacked merit.
“The genesis of the issue was that the petition was filed by the Chambers of Tawo Tawo, representing both petitioners,
“The tribunal came to the decision that the party deserves its right to engage counsel of his choice, that is sacrosanct and nobody can change it. Preliminary objection was raised to the effect that AAC, now having changed its counsel, Tawo, now lacks locus standi to represent it,” Ukala said.
He said the Court of Appeal has confirmed the ruling of the Federal High Court that Nzenwa is AAC national chairman.
Awara counsel, David Adebe, of the Tawo Tawo Chambers, said they would study the judgement and decide on the next line of action.