Appeal Court Overturned The Decision That Disqualified All APC Candidates In Rivers State

The Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division today in four landmark decisions set aside the October 25, 2022 judgment of Justice Emmanuel A. Obile of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt which disqualified all the candidates of the All Progressives Congress for the 2023 general elections in Rivers State.

Delivering judgment in Appeal Numbers: CA/PH/496/2022 (All Progressives Congress v. George Orlu & Ors), CA/PH/505/2022 (Nwankwo Ndubuisi Ozoije & 47 Ors v. George Orlu & 7 Ors), CA/PH/519/2022 (Tonye Patrick Cole v. All Progressives Congress & 7 Ors) and CA/PH/521/2022 (Independent National Electoral Commission v. George Orlu & 6 Ors), the panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal presided over by Justice M. L. Shuaibu JCA in unanimous decisions left very harsh words on the trial Court Judge for erring in law and misdirection of self in the decisions he took.

The Court of Appeal upheld the supremacy of political parties in superintending over their internal affairs, noting that same is subject to the clear provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as altered) and Section 84 of the Electoral Act 2022. “A political party is supreme over its internal affairs”, the Court of Appeal held in All Progressives Congress v. George Orlu & Ors.

On the particular limb of the appeal by the APC challenging the decision in George Orlu & Ors, the learned Justices resolved all five issues formulated by the Appellant against the 1st to 6th Respondents. It also ruled that the appeal is meritorious, allowed the same, and set aside the judgment of the trial Court. The Appellant was also awarded cost to the tune of N500,000 against the 1st to 6th Respondents.

Ruling on the limb of the appeal filed by the APC candidates for the National Assembly and Rivers State House of Assembly (Ndubuisi Nwankwo Ozoije & 47 Ors v. George Orlu & 7 Ors), the presiding jurist noted that “I was perplexed with this strange approach adopted by the trial Judge… The trial Judge was in serious error”.

The Court held that “the appeal is insured with merit and is hereby allowed”, set aside the judgment of the trial Court, and also awarded a cost of N500,000 against the 1st to 6th Respondents.

In a similar vein, the Court of Appeal threw out Justice Obile’s judgment in the appeal filed by the Rivers APC governorship candidate, Arch. Tonye Cole in CA/PH/519/2022 (Tonye Patrick Cole v. All Progressives Congress & 7 Ors). The appellate Court held that the appeal was meritorious and slammed the 2nd to 7th Respondents with another N500,000 cost.

On the appeal filed by the APC in CA/PH/552/2022 against the decision of the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Emmanuel A. Obile in All Progressives Congress v. Independent National Electoral Commission & 3 Ors (FHC/PH/CS/162/2022) which declined jurisdiction in her judgment on the 9th of November 2022 in the matter brought by the party to challenge the legality of the candidates the PDP nominated for Governor and Deputy Governor respectively, Counsel to the Appellant, Chief Emenike Ebete drew commendation from the Justices of the Court of Appeal for withdrawing the appeal after taking the hint of the anger of the noble Lords with political parties challenging the primary and nomination of candidates by other parties in clear misinterpretation of Section 285(14)(c) of the 1999 Constitution and relevant Sections of the Electoral Act 2022.

Irked by a plethora of such actions by several political parties seeking disqualification of candidates of opposing parties, the Court had admonished the Legal Advisers of both the APC and PDP in Rivers State, Iheanyichukwu Dike, Esq. and Lawrence Chuku, Esq respectively to advise their parties against undertaking such voyages of legal frivolity and directed Counsel to the Appellant to address it on jurisdiction before it would proceed. Accordingly, the appeal was struck out after the Appellant’s Counsel applied to withdraw the same.

It would be recalled that the Rivers PDP itself had filed similar cases to disqualify candidates of the APC via questioning compliance with the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2022 in their nomination. The PDP specifically in Peoples Democratic Party v. Independent National Electoral Commission & 2 Ors (FHC/PH/CS/149/2022) got Justice Emmanuel A. Obile who had declined jurisdiction in the APC case to assume the same and proceeded to disqualify Arch. Tonye Patrick Cole, the governorship candidate of the APC, in a judgment he delivered on the 24th of November 2022.

With today’s judgment of the Court of Appeal, candidates of the Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress have scaled major hurdles thrown on their path on the way to the 2023 general elections.

While we commend the noble Lords of the Court of Appeal for their fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law thereby upholding the unblemished integrity of the nation’s Judiciary in today’s landmark judgments, we have cause to once again ask our party faithful and millions of Rivers people who have been patient with us to continue keeping the faith as we proceed to clear what is left of the contrived legal hurdles through the appeals challenging the disqualification of Tonye Cole by Justice Emmanuel A. Obile on grounds of his dual citizenship and the disqualification of candidates for 16 State Constituencies seats at the Rivers State House of Assembly by another Judge of the Federal High Court on grounds of alleged non-monitoring of their primary.

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