Why Supreme Court must hear appeals against 180-day deadline, by ACN, ANPP candidates
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate in Benue, Prof Steve Ugba, has told the Supreme Court why it must hear his appeal.
He said his right to fair hearing under Section 35 overrides other provisions of the Constitution including Section 285(6).
His counterpart in the All Nigeria Peopleâ€™s Party (ANPP), Daniel Saror, also said the interpretation of the Constitution cannot convey a meaning that is unjust.
The two are challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the verdict of the Election Petition Tribunals that dismissed their petitions on the ground that they were not heard within 180 days as stipulated in Section 285 (6) of the Constitution.
They had gone to the tribunal to challenge the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Governor Gabriel Suswam in the April 2011 election, where the petitions were dismissed at the preliminary stage.
The Supreme Court on November 14, last year ordered that the petitions be heard on its merit.
But the Tribunal and the Court of Appeal both declined to hear the cases, citing the apex court decision in the consolidated appeals of the ANPP v PDP Governorship candidate in Borno, Mohammed Goni.
Dissatisfied, the Appellants approached the Supreme Court again for a redress.
Ugba is praying the court either reinforce its order for retrial or assume jurisdiction and give judgment in the matter since there is no additional evidence required.
Saror is also asking the court to assume jurisdiction and give final judgment.
The PDPâ€™s counsel, Jibril Okutepa (SAN) yesterday urged the court to dismiss the Ugba appeal.
The matter has been adjourned till Friday for ruling on preliminary objection.
According to him, the Supreme Court order for remittance cannot confer jurisdiction on the tribunal to hear the matter outside the 180 days.
Adopting the PDPâ€™s argument, Suswamâ€™s counsel, Damien Dodo (SAN) also urged the court to dismiss the appeal.
But counsel to Ugba, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), who led Femi Falana said the apex court will only promote anarchy if the constitutional right of appeal of a petitioner is denied by technicality.
Besides, he said it was premature for the appeal to be described as an abuse of court process at the preliminary stage without going into the substantive matter.
â€śThe Constitution gives us the right of appeal. You cannot use preliminary objection to deny a constitutional right. The preliminary objection is unfounded and should be dismissed because we are exercising our constitutional right. This appeal is based on extant decision of the court which has not been set aside. The order is binding on everybody, it has not been reversed. Given the opportunity, we will prove to the court that this case is different from others. If the order for fresh trial cannot achieve something, there is a problem. The constitutional right to fair hearing has overriding power on other provisions. If the court ordered that a matter be heard denovo, there cannot be a limitation to statute.â€ť
Akeredolu recalled that the Respondent withdrew their application on 180 days at the Supreme Court on the day the order for remittance was made.
â€śA constitutional right of appeal cannot be without remedy. The court cannot justify its usefulness by limitation on technicalitiesâ€ť, he added.
In his own submission, Counsel to Saror, Mr. Iorpin argued that Section 285(6) of the Constitution heavily relied on by the Respondents said judgment must be delivered within 180 days.
According to him, judgment could only be delivered after a case had been heard.
He asked what becomes the fate of a petitioner if applications on technicalities are raised at the tribunal to frustrate the case of the petitioner.