Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Hearing in the appeal filed by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young People’s Party (YPP) against the judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court that sacked him as the senator representing Anambra South senatorial district has been shifted to Thursday, March 12 by the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal.
A three-man panel of justices of the appellate court led by Justice Stephen Adah, adjourned the matter to enable some of the respondents to file their processes.
Listed as respondents in the appeal marked CA/A/32/2020, are Mr. Anani Chuka, the YPP, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Dr. Obinna Uzoh.
When the matter came up on Monday, counsel to the 1st and 4th respondents (Chuka and Dr. Uzoh), prayed for time to respond to a fresh application he said was served on them by the appellant.
Counsel to Ubah, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, however, drew the appellate court’s attention to the fact that since the matter is a pre-election dispute, the lifespan of the appeal would expire in the next seven days.
Consequently, Justice Adah-led panel adjourned the appeal till Thursday for hearing.
Justice Bello Kawu of the FCT High Court sitting at Kubwa, had in a judgement he delivered on April 11, 2019, sacked Ubah from the Senate on the grounds that he allegedly used a forged National Examination Council, NECO, certificate to contest the senatorial election that held in Anambra South on February 23, 2019.
Justice Kawu directed INEC to withdraw the certificate of return it issued to Ubah and issue a fresh one to Dr. Uzoh of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, who came 2nd at the election.
However, Ubah, who contended that he was neither joined as a party nor served with any process with respect to the suit marked FCT/HC/CV/3044/2018, approached the trial court to set aside the judgement which he insisted occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice against him
Though Justice Kawu, on December 4, 2019, suspended the execution of the judgement by restraining the Senate President from swearing-in Uzoh, however, in a ruling on January 17, he dismissed Ubah’s application to set-aside his sack as a lawmaker.
The Judge held that Ubah’s application to vacate his judgement lacked merit, saying he was satisfied that the embattled senator was duly served with all the relevant court processes via substituted means.
He, therefore, ordered INEC to go ahead and issue a certificate of return to Dr. Uzor of the PDP.
Justice Kawu equally dismissed a motion by another claimant to the PDP senatorial ticket, Chief Chris Uba, filed to be joined as an interested party in the matter.
But dissatisfied with the decision, Senator Ubah filed four grounds of appeal, maintaining that he was denied fair hearing by the trial court.
He told the appellate court that he was neither served with the originating processes nor hearing notice with respect to the suit that led to his sack from the Senate.
Besides, he argued that the Abuja court lacked the territorial jurisdiction to hear and determine a pre-election matter that arose from the election that held in Anambra State.
Ubah, through his counsel, Dr. Ikpeazu contended that for the jurisdiction of the trial court to be properly invoked, he must be served with the relevant court processes.
“The learned trial Court erred in law by refusing to set aside its judgement in Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/3044/2018 by striking out Motion No: 1631/2019 on the grounds that the Court processes in Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/3044/2018 were served on the Appellant, and therefore occasioned a miscarriage of Justice”, he argued.
He insisted that there was no evidence on record that he was served was the originating court processes in the suit that led to his sack from the Senate.
Ubah said he was also not served with the motion that joined the beneficiary of the judgement, Uzoh, to the suit.
He noted that from the record of the High Court, the said motion by Uzoh who was joined as the 4th respondent was filed on March 27, 2019, argued the next day and ruling that allowed him into the matter delivered on April 1.
The embattled senator further faulted the high court for dismissing his motion on the premise that it was brought beyond 180 days.
According to Ubah, the trial court had inherent jurisdiction to set aside its judgement for being a nullity, stressing that the court had no territorial jurisdiction to hear and determine a pre-election matter, wherein the cause of action arose at Anambra State.
“The learned trial court by virtue of section 87(9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) has no jurisdiction to join the 4th Respondent who is not a member of Young Progressive Party, not an aspirant in Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/3044/2018”.
He maintained that the court had no powers to return Uzoh as duly elected contrary to section 285 (13) of 1999 Constitution, as amended.
He stressed that the Anambra South senatorial election having taken a pace on February 23, 2019, the trial court had no jurisdiction to join the 4th respondent in the suit, the dispute now being a post-election matter subject only to the jurisdiction of the election tribunal as provided by section 285(1) of the Constitution.
Ubah, therefore, argued that the decision of the High Court was null and void, adding that his right to fair hearing was breached by the court which he said failed to pronounce on all issue he raised before it.
Aside from praying the appellate court to allow the appeal by setting aside the judgement, Ubah, sought for an order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC, clerk and president of the Senate from taking any step aimed at giving effect in whatever way to the judgement of the lower court on the grounds that it was a nullity.