The All Progressives Congress, APC, Rivers State Chapter has expressed dismay that in the past one week or so, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State has launched an all-out media war on both the Court of Appeal and the APC over the pending matter of sacked Rivers State Local Government Council Chairmen in Rivers State in 2015.
“In the ensuing media blitzkrieg, the PDP, in a full-blown press conference and sundry interviews their leaders have separately been granting the media made strings of accusations that impugned on the integrity of the Court of Appeal, some judges and, by direct inference, the APC” Mr. Chris Finebone, APC’s Publicity Secretary said in a statement to journalists today.
It reads: “While we have been guided by the hallowed principle of not dabbling into matters before the courts and therefore have restrained ourselves from joining issues with the PDP over the matter, however, we feel that the assault on public opinion and perception by the PDP, if unchecked with facts and figures, is likely to begin to have some form of effect on those not properly informed on the matter in question.
“Whereas the APC will spare the people the detailed shenanigans of the PDP to ensure that the case of the illegally sacked Local Government Council Chairmen does not receive legal attention, it is important to state that both the Rivers State Government and the PDP have been the ones battling to ensure that the manifestly illegal action of Gov. Nyesom Wike in sacking the elected Council Chairmen is not heard in court because both the government and the PDP know the glaring illegality in the sacking of the Chairmen.
“Since the matter went to court in 2015, the Rivers State Government and the PDP have resorted to all manner of frivolous actions just to ensure that the actual hearing of the matter is frustrated. This is predicated on their fear (quite genuine fear for that matter) that the law will hand them the wrong end of the stick having acted illegally ab initio.
“For example, the position of the PDP on the hearing of the appeal by the Court of Appeal while an appeal has been entered and lies at the Supreme Court in SC/536/2016 (RSIEC & Anor v Hon Augustine P. Ngo & Ors) on the ruling on Joinder of the Council Chairmen in CA/338/2016 on the appeal by the APC against the judgement of the Federal High Court in FHC/PHC/CS/84/2016 (Peoples Democratic Party v INEC & Ors) which set aside the Council elections held on 23rd May, 2015 is the height of absurdity. And the grounds are these:
1. The PDP & Ors filed a Motion for Stay of Proceedings on the hearing of the matter at the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt after the grant of leave to appeal as interested persons in CA/PH/26M/2016 (Hon Augustine P. Ngo & 21 Ors) on June 20, 2016 by the Court of Appeal. Same Motion was opposed, argued by parties thereto and successfully defeated by Counsel for the Appellants since June 2017.
2. The appeal filed by the PDP and Ors at the Supreme Court challenging the Joinder raised four grounds and on the 1st of February 2017, Counsel for the Respondents told the Supreme Court that he would not oppose the application if the said grounds were all withdrawn. Counsel for the RSIEC & PDP, Eke (a State Counsel at the Ministry of Justice) with the Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State (Chinwe Emmanuel Aguma) in court but not robed, accordingly withdrew three of those grounds and the matter was adjourned to January 23rd 2018. No order for Stay of Proceedings in the Court below was made. Please note that Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, JSC presided over the panel of Justices of the Supreme Court on the said February 1st 2017 and Counsel for the Respondents, even though knowing fully well her marital status and public affiliation to the PDP, never filed or pronounced any objection to her presence or leadership of the panel.
“As part of the well-planned scheme to undermine the matter and prevent the court from hearing it until the tenure of the chairmen expires, the PDP went further to write a letter dated September 19, 2017 to the presiding Judge of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ali Abubakar Gumel wherein sundry allegations of bias against the party were levelled against the Honourable Justice and requesting as follows:
(a) That Justice Gumel disqualify himself from hearing the appeal in CA/PH/338/2016 and all other cases involving the Peoples Democratic Party.
(b) That Justice Gumel should not constitute any other panel to hear and determine the same Appeal filed by Hon. Augustine P. Ngo & Ors.
“The protest letter which was signed by the State Chairman, Bro Felix Amaechi Obuah, and backed by an Affidavit in Verification of Protest deposed to by Felix Amaechi Obuah, copied the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Chairman of the National Judicial Council and the President of the Court of Appeal, was in reaction to the service of hearing notice on the appeal lying before the Court of Appeal on the matter of setting aside of the May 23, 2015 local government councils elections.
“In response to the foregoing, the Rivers State Chapter of APC wishes to state as follows:
1. That mindful that parties before a Court are required by law to desist from making pronouncements which are prejudicial to the matter submitted for adjudication, we would exercise maximum restraint from responding seriatim to all the vile allegations raised by the Rivers PDP with respect to the delivery of justice in this long-drawn judicial battle. Suffice to state that our resolve to remain silent in deference to this time-honoured practice may hurt the cause of justice irretrievably with the flurry of blatant lies and deliberate misinformation dished out by the PDP to general public.
2. We find the behaviour of the PDP in this matter very strange. Why should a party which fathered a government that withdrew an application for Stay of Proceedings at the same Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt by the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission after it was duly adjourned to October 2015 for hearing in respect of Suit No.: FHC/PHC/CS/84/2015 upon the resumption of office by Chief Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike, to make way for the decapitation of the duly-elected Councils, be the one struggling over a Stay of Proceedings that has not even been heard to stop the Court of Appeal from carrying out her Constitutional duties as prescribed by law?
3. We believe that the appointment of Chinwe Emmanuel Aguma (SAN) as Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice by Wike presupposes a disposition by his government to work within the confines of the law and not to set off a flurry of such unlawful actions, including the dismissal of Boards of Commissions and Agencies of government in order to render RSIEC and others tools for political manipulation of Rivers people.
4. The APC notes in particular, that we had (still have) the right to raise eyebrows when Governor Nyesom Wike as a party in the matter of the local government councils at the Court of Appeal proceeded with the renovation of the building housing the Court. As a party before the Court, which as a federal judicial institution serves at least two other States of the Federation, we could have been justified imputing motive for such action by the Governor and same would form valid grounds for challenging the independence of the Court to dispense justice in the matter where our interest lies. But as a party, we took it all with equanimity in the belief that those who find the manipulation of the Judiciary to achieve their goals, no matter how narrow and self-serving, would find their indulgence hitting a brick wall this time as the Honourable Justices of our Courts would neither trade their personal integrity and judicial Oaths for perversion of justice nor compromise their capacity to dispense justice without fear by succumbing to blackmail and intimidation. Just as we believe that the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man, we hereby appeal to all well-meaning Rivers people and friends of the State to not only watch the unfolding events in this case with greater interest but call the Governor and his party to order in the plot to always have it their way or blackmail institutions and tarnish the reputation of time-tested officials of government and their long-standing commendable career records.
5. The new panel which began sitting on the LG appeal Wednesday, Oct 25, was constituted by the President of the Court of Appeal pursuant to the Order for accelerated hearing of the matter by the Court at its sitting in September.
6. Recall that the PDP had by its letter of Sept 19, 2017 asked the presiding judge in Port Harcourt to disqualify himself and not constitute any panel to hear the matter. They acted in bad faith to allege therefore that Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, President of the Court of Appeal, constituted a new panel solely for the Local Government matter to achieve a premeditated goal whereas, in fact, the PCA only acted in positive response to their petition alleging bias against Justice Gumel, the presiding Judge in the PH Division. It is clear that what the PDP actually wants is for the matter to be killed extra-judicially by the Judiciary itself. The case should not be heard is all that the PDP and the Rivers State Government yearn for but God is alive!
We thank you for your patience.”