Fearing a negative ruling, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has petitioned the Supreme Court not only to overturn the December 24, 2022, ruling, but also to dismiss the Court of Appeal’s panel hearing the case of perjury between its governorship candidate, Umo Eno, and a former aspirant, Akan Okon.
In an appeal No. CA/C/369/2022, the party expressed dissatisfaction with the decision involving its candidate at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division.
It did, however, name Akan Okon, Umo Eno, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as respondents to the case.
The petition dated January 4, 2023, was signed by PDP’s Counsel and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Paul Usoro.
The PDP stated that it disagreed with the entire decision made by the Court of Appeal panel, which was presided over by its President, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, and two other justices.
It, therefore, sought the order of the Supreme Court allowing its appeal and setting aside the Appeal Court’s ruling delivered on December 24, 2022.
Part of the reliefs sought by the embattled ruling party in Akwa Ibom State reads, “An order of this honourable court (a) setting aside the proceedings of the lower court on the 24 December 2022;
“Granting a departure from the Election Judicial Proceedings Practice Direction, 2022 by extending time for the filling of the respondent’s briefs of arguments of the appellant and the 2nd respondent and deeming the briefs as duly and properly filed and served in the terms of the appellant’s motion, pursuant to the powers of the Supreme Court under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, Cap S15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004;
“And ordering the re-hearing of the appeal by the lower court before a fresh and different panel,” the PDP stated.
Among the grounds of appeal, the party noted that the Appeal Court was misdirected in refusing the applicant’s motion that was filed on December 22, 2022, and which prayed the for a departure from the Election Judicial Proceedings Practice Direction, 2022 in extending time for the filling of the appellant’s brief of arguments for hearing of the appeal and deeming the already filed briefs of arguments as duly filed and served on the first respondent thereof.
It also held that the lower court (Appeal Court) was misdirected in refusing the appellant’s motion for departure from the Practice Direction and holding that “one is unable to found any provision for the extension of time for the brief to be filed,” and that “this court continues to rule that based on the provision of the Practice Direction this court cannot exercise any discretion to enlarge time for the respondent’s brief to be filed.”
On the third ground, the PDP held that the Appeal Court was misdirected in holding that “in Udom Udo Ekpoudom v APC and another delivered 14/11/2022 based on the decision of the apex court in Maku v Sule this application cannot be allowed; it is hereby refused.”
Its ground four was that by refusing the appellant’s motion and proceeding to hear the appeal on 24 December 2022 without the joint respondents’ briefs of arguments of the appellant and the 2nd respondent, the Appeal Court denied the appellant the fundamental right to be heard on the appeal in terms of and pursuant to Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The Court of Appeal had on December 24, 2022, reserved judgement in an appeal brought before it by Mr. Okon challenging the ruing of the Federal High Court, which held that Mr. Eno was the legitimate candidate of the PDP.
At the resumed hearing of the appeal, Mr. Usoro, the PDP counsel had drawn the court’s attention to the motion filed by the first and second respondents on December 22, 2022, for concessions regarding the late filing of the brief of reply.
Based on that, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Offiong Offiong, proceeded to move a motion supported by an affidavit for the court to grant their prayers for extended time, saying that an unfortunate incident of kidnap of the administrative staff of the first and second respondents caused the delay in the filling of the reply.
The application was stoutly opposed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Okey Amaechi, who is counsel to Mr. Okon, who argued that the court has no power to grant such extension.
The court subsequently ruled that it has no discretionary powers to extend time for the first and second respondents to file their replies and thereby struck out their briefs while also reserving judgment on the substantial suit before it.
Mr. Okon had shortly after the PDP primary dragged the party, Mr. Eno and INEC to court over alleged forgery of his West African School Certificate (WASC).
In suit no FHC/UY/CS/110/2022, Mr. Okon accused Mr. Eno of forging his WAEC certificate and age declaration and prayed the court to hand over the party’s ticket to him as the next highest scorer of votes in the primaries.
But in her judgement, Justice Agatha Okeke of the Federal High Court, Uyo, dismissed the case as trite, baseless and invalid.
Not only that, but the court also awarded N15m cost against Mr. Okon in favour of Mr. Umo Eno, PDP and INEC, who were defendants in the case.
Dissatisfied, Mr. Okon proceeded to the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling of the lower court.
“The issue presented before the court was a case of forgery of the 1981 and 1983 WAEC certificates presented to INEC and the PDP by Pastor Umo Eno, requiring a thorough evaluation.
“Both oral and documentary evidence abounds that the certificates were forged, but the judge carefully avoided evaluating the parties and the noticeable discrepancies pointed out in the certificates,” the statement said.
“The judge in her ruling also relied on the oral address of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which did not file any document or lead in evidence even when they were sued as the third defendant,” the statement said, adding that, in doing so, Mr Okon was denied “the opportunity to react to any formal defence by INEC,” Mr. Okon had said.