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S’Court sets aside Appeal Court’s decision on Rivers APC congresses

The Supreme Court on Monday restored the ruling of Rivers State High Court that restrained All Progressives Congress (APC) from the conduct of congresses of the party in Rivers State.

The apex court set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, which had allowed the conduct of congresses by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State.

The Court of Appeal had on June 21, 2018 given the ruling against the decision of a Rivers State High Court but the apex court set its decision aside on the grounds that the appellate court acted in bad faith.

Justice of Supreme Court, Justice Centus Chima Nweze, in the apex court’s ruling on an in interlocutory appeal filed by Abdulahi Umar, held that the Court of Appeal ought not to have vacated the injunctive order issued against the APC by the Rivers State High Court on the conduct of the congresses.

Justice Chinwedu A. Nwogu of the Rivers State High Court had in an exparte motion filed by Abdullahi Umar restrained the APC from conducting the congresses, pending the determination of a suit seeking to redress complaint against his marginalisation and 22 others in the said congresses.

But while the injunctive order of the High Court was subsisting, the APC went ahead and conducted the ward, local government and state congresses on May 19, 20 and 21.

After the conduct of the congresses, the Court of Appeal in a ruling on an application by ‘APC seeking stay of execution of the High Court injunctive order and stay of proceedings of the main suit,’ vacated the injunctive order and refused to stay hearing of the substantive matter prompting Umar to complain to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in the verdict, lambasted the Appeal Court for judicially indulging APC and vacating the injunctive order in the party’s favour when there is abundant evidence that the APC was in contempt of court.

The apex court further held that the Court of Appeal ought not to have granted its discretion in favour of APC because the party was in grave violation of the order of the High Court.

Justice Nweze said that the Court of Appeal has a duty to protect a lawful subsisting order and ought not to have granted favourable judicial discretion for a party that willingly disobeyed valid court order.

“It is unfortunate and wrongful for the Court of Appeal to have entertained a party in contempt of a valid court order to the extent of granting judicial favour by way of staying of execution of an injunctive order when the party at the center of the dispute was in gross contempt of court.

“It is a serious matter for anyone to flout a court order and in the instant case, it is clear that the respondent (APC) was in grave disobedience to two lawful court orders”, the court held.

“It is sacrilegious, ill fated and suicide mission for the Court of Appeal to have departed from various decision of the Supreme Court that any party in contempt of court ought not to be granted judicial discretion and in this matter Court of Appeal is bound to follow Supreme Court final decision,” Justice Nweze held.

He said, what is more, refusal of the Court of Appeal to be bound by final decision of Supreme Court is a gross insurbodination.

The apex court therefore nullified and set aside the decision of the Appeal Court delivered on June 21, 2018.

The Daily Times recalls that Justice Nwogu had said in the ruling that all actions taken by the APC during the pendency of the suit had been set aside because “they are illegal and unconstitutional”

Justice Nwogu declared that all those who purchased nomination forms for the ward congresses were entitled to contest the ward congresses of May 19, but were unjustly excluded by the party.

He said: “The rule by might must be checked by the rule of law. We must restore the hope of the common man in the justice system”.

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