The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on Friday commenced hearing in a suit seeking to remove Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State from office.
In the appeal, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, Chief Alexander Obiechina, is challenging the refusal of an Abuja Federal High Court to nullify the nomination process that led to Chime’s emergence as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party on April 26, 2011.
Obiechina is asking the appellate court to determine whether there was a valid special congress or primary election held in Enugu State on January 12, 2011, in which Chime was nominated as the PDP candidate.
Insisting that the laid down conditions for the nomination of candidates for governorship positions, as enshrined in sections 85(1) and 87(1)(4)(b) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), were not fulfilled when Chime emerged, Obiechina is arguing that January 9, 2011, was the valid date set for the governorship primaries in Enugu State.
Obiechina has asked the appellate court to nullify the primary election and order Chime to vacate the office forthwith.
At the commencement of hearing in the matter on Friday, the panel of justices of the Court of Appeal granted an application in which Obiechina’s counsel, Oba Maduabuchi, asked it to proceed to determine the matter even though one of the respondents, the Independent National Electoral Commission, was yet to file its brief and relevant processes.
Maduabuchi noted that INEC failed to file and serve any brief or application for extension of time in respect of the appeal.
INEC’s withdrawal from the suit was not surprising, as the Commission had frowned at Chime’s nomination while the suit was before the Abuja FHC.
Chime’s lawyer, Mrs O. J. Offia, and that of the PDP, O. K. Akuyibo, did not object to the appellant’s wish to leave out INEC in the appeal.
However, PDP lawyer, Akuyibo, vehemently opposed the court’s jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
“This is not a proper case where the court can invoke its powers under Section 15 of Court of Appeal rules for the simple reason that the trial had declined jurisdiction over the appellant’s suit,” he argued, adding that the subject matter of the appeal was to determine whether the Abuja FHC was right or not to decline jurisdiction in the case.
The Court of Appeal also granted another application in which the appellant’s lawyer sought to withdraw prayer one in his motion paper, which required the appellate court’s invocation of Section 15 of the Court of Appeal Rules to enable it assume jurisdiction over the matter as court of first instance.
But the court asked Maduabuchi to get prepared to address it on the interpretation and provision of Section 141 of the Electoral Act as amended, in the event that the court agrees with his submissions.
“Assuming we agree with you, can we after an election, going by a Supreme Court decision based on Section 141 of the Electoral Act, make you occupy the position of governor in an election you did not participate?,” the panel, which was led by Justice M. D. Dongban-Mensem, asked the appellant’s counsel.