The Supreme Court has struck out an appeal filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) challenging the judgment of a High Court in Port Harcourt which barred the party from conducting any primaries in the state to nominate candidates to represent the party in the forth coming election.
Ruling on a preliminary objection raised by the respondents, Ibrahim Umah and 22 other aggrieved members of the APC, Justice Aliyu Sanusi, in a lead judgement, said there was substance in the objection raised by the respondent.
Consequently, the preliminary objection having been upheld, “the appeal is struck out”.
In a unanimous decision, the court agreed with the respondents that the suit from which the trial court entered a judgment barring the APC from holding primaries was an election matter which the court had jurisdiction to entertain.
Sanusi stated that reasons for striking out the appeal would be given on a date to be announced to parties.
On Monday, the Supreme Court had taken arguments from the counsel for the appellant, Lateef Fagbemi, and counsel for the respondents, Henry Bello, and said at the end of the sitting that it would deliver judgment, yesterday, and give reasons at a later date.
In his argument, Fagbemi urged the Supreme Court to nullify the judgment of the High court on the grounds that the trial court had no jurisdiction when it entertained the suit.
He also claimed that since the trial court had no jurisdiction its judgment in the matter amounted to a nullity and should be set aside.
Fagbemi specifically asked the Supreme Court to invoke Section 22 of the Supreme Court act and give final judgment in the matter to end the multiple cases arising from the Rivers State APC primary election.
However, in his own argument, counsel for the respondent, Bello urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal of the APC on the ground that it has become a mere academic in nature.
He submitted that by the decision of the Supreme Court of February 8, 2019, which upheld the decision of the High Court in Port Harcourt and barred APC from conducting primary election, the case of APC had died and should be buried.
Bello told the court that the respondent led by Ibrahim Umar, who were aggrieved by the violation of the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution in the manner the APC conducted the primary election in Rivers, had secured a consent judgment at the high court and that the judgment still stands.
He urged the apex court that to hold that the instant appeal has become academic exercise.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed sadness over the decision of the Supreme Court to bar the All Progressives Congress (APC) from participating in all elections (except the Presidential poll) in Rivers State.
Buhari expressed his view during the APC mega rally in Rivers State, yesterday.
The President said, “I am very disturbed by the decision that we are not allowed to participate in some of the processes. I have no doubt that I got elected but I have to respect the institutions that I inherited. I assure you and I recommend that you remain patient and resolute. We will ensure that justice is done in this country.”
The ruling of the Supreme Court implied that the APC has lost 32 House of Assembly seats, 13 House of Representatives positions, three senatorial positions and governorship and deputy governorship seats.
The President also begged the electorate to “bear with him” as he continues to fix the country.
He said he would deploy the armed forces and the police in the state to ensure that all Nigerians are allowed to vote without intimidation.
Meanwhile, no fewer than four persons were feared dead and scores unconscious yesterday following a stampede at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Igwuruta, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, venue of the All Progressives Congress (APC), presidential rally.
Those feared dead are three women and a man.
Eyewitnesses said that the incident occurred when the crowd surged towards the main pedestrian gate, as President Muhammadu Buhari was leaving the stadium, but some got suffocated and were trampled upon.
Two ambulances from the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), were seen conveying the unconscious supporters out of the stadium for immediate medical attention.
Speaking earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari promised not to allow any security agency to intimidate Nigerians during the general elections.
The Prsident urged federal government institutions to allow Nigerians to vote any candidate of their choice across party lines without any form of intimidation, harassment and force.
He expressed regret that the Rivers APC was yet to be allowed to participate in the electoral process, noting that, though he was elected into office in 2015, he would respect institutions that he inherited.
He appealed to APC supporters in the state to be patient and resolute, adding that the leadership of the party would ensure that justice was done in the country despite party and ethnic colouration.
Buhari assured that he would not preside over a government that would abuse the trust of Nigerians.
“I will be accountable to you (Nigerians). I ask you to, please, bear with me that I am going to be steadfast and I am going to do justice to all Nigerians. Nigeria is one and we will remain one”.
Buhari assured that, through the Armed Forces, Nigerians would be respected and that “they are allowed to vote who they like across (all the political) parties. Please, have faith that I am going to be fair to all. I will not allow any institution to intimidate any constituency or anybody”.
He, however, reiterated on the achievements recorded so far, by his government which include the sustained fight against corruption, tackling of insecurity in the North East and improvement in food security in the country.
“People of the North East are witnesses to our improvement in the security of this country. The millions of dollars that we used to spend on rice (importation), we now save it for infrastructure. On corruption, we are going to remain consistent and resolute”, Buhari noted.
Meanwhile, the former governor of the state and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said APC would give the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in state, the run for its money.
Amaechi declared: “Whatever PDP wants, we will give it to them. We are equal to the task. I will be here till after the election”.
Amaechi who is also the Director General of the Buhari Campaign Organization, claimed that when he was governor, the then PDP government used federal and state institutions to intimidate him
“Whatever Wike wants on Saturday, we will give him. Whatever the PDP wants in Rivers, we will give them. Your Excellency, I am not going to Abuja again from here. In 2015, the army attempted to arrest me a sitting governor.
“We will battle him to the last. Today, we will sing like the Ibo sings. On Saturday, they should get ready. We are ready for them. In 2015, they used federal and state institutions against us. They killed and maimed our leaders. They killed our supporters and beheaded them. They used the courts against us”, Amaechi recalled.
Meanwhile, a mild drama ensued at the rally when the factional candidate of the APC in the state, Senator Magnus Abe and his teeming supporters were barred from entering the venue of the rally initially.
Abe was also cut off from the protocols as only the Amaechi’s choice governorship candidate, Tonye Cole, was recognized by the party leadership.
Also, the National Legal Adviser of Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Nella Andem Rabana, has said that a vote for President Muhammadu Buhari would further plunge Nigeria into slavery.
She stated this in Calabar when PANDEF and its local arm in Cross River State, All Cross River National Front endorsed the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, in Calabar, yesterday.
Rabana said: “it has to be PDP all the way. It is the only hope we have. If you vote Buhari, he will take us into slavery. It is umbrella all the way.”
She condemned the lopsided appointments made by Buhari which she said favoured only a section of the country, adding that the travails of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was politically motivated and that the CJN was ambushed.
At the event, PANDEF and ACRNF said they supported Atiku’s endorsement by Nigerian elders because he has promised restructuring.
Also speaking at the event, the National Secretary of PANDEF, Dr. Alfred Mulade, said “the declaration of support for Atiku is being done simultaneously across the Niger Delta region and other parts of the country. We have done the national endorsement for Atiku.
“We are here to do same at the grassroots. The train will also move to Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo and Delta states. We have agreed on the direction to go, and that is, to go with the only candidate that will restructure,” he said.
Another leader of the group, Senator Bassey Ewa, said the groups decided to support Atiku because “he promised restructuring within six months if elected as president.”
The National Deputy Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa and others present urged voters to vote for Atiku to take Nigeria out of the present enslavement by the APC-led government.
Chairman of ACRNF and former military administrator of Kwara State, Col. PAM Ogar (rtd) and other leaders present also used the occasion to condemn what they described as the injustice, intimidation and trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, who is from the region, and said he was ambushed and hoped justice would prevail in the end.