Anambra Central: More legal drama underway as Okonkwo files appeal against High Court overruling itself
Dr. Obiora Okonkwo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has approached the Appeal Court with a request to set aside the ruling of January 12, 2018, by Justice John Tsoho, of the Abuja High Court, which set aside its own earlier ruling.
Justice Tsoho had vacated his earlier judgment of December 13, 2017, ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Okonkwo a certificate of return as senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District of Anambra state.
The court’s last ruling had opened the way for INEC to conduct the last Saturday election to fill the vacant senatorial seat for Anambra Central.
After the exercise, INEC had declared a former chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Chief Victor Umeh as the winner of the polls.
But Okonkwo in his latest suit filed on Monday, also asked the Court of Appeal for an order directing INEC to immediately comply with the consent judgment of Justice Tsoho delivered on December 13.
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He is also seeking an order of the Court of Appeal setting aside that proceedings in a pre-election suit he filed in December 2014 be adjourned indefinitely pending when the Supreme Court hears, and delivers judgment, on a appeal by the PDP against a judgment of the Court of Appeal on the Anambra Central election rerun.
Dr. Okonkwo, through his counsel, Sebastine Hon (SAN), further asked for an order of the Court upholding the pre-eminence of pre-election matters against post-election issues.
The appeal which was filed at the Court of Appeal in Abuja Monday, pointed out several errors in the ruling of Justice Tsoho which also set aside the consent judgment.
According to the appeal, Justice Tsoho denied Okonkwo his right to fair hearing when he single handedly amended the only relief in a Motion on Notice brought by INEC seeking to “vary” his judgment of December 13, 2017.
Okonkwo argued that Justice Tsoho amended INEC’s relief by substituting the word vary with vacate and further refused him the right to reply as demanded by law. He said the action constituted miscarriage of justice.
He maintained that “the learned trial judge suo motu, held that the word “vary” means “vacate”, without giving the parties, especially the appellant an opportunity to address him on that”.
He reminded the Court of Appeal that “it is settled law that before a point will be raised and resolved by a court; parties must be given opportunity of addressing the court thereon, failing which a breach of fair hearing would be occasioned”.
Okonkwo also raised questions with Justice Tsoho’s decision to hold that INEC’s sole relief was not vague on the ground that other contents of the Motion on Notice saved it.
He argued that by adding the word ‘vacate’ to the Motion on Notice by INEC, Justice Tsoho went out of his way to decide on what was not asked for by INEC.
According to him “it is settled law that parties and the court are bound by the reliefs sought on the face of the motion on notice”, he said, adding that “the sole relief sought by INEC on its Motion on Notice was vague and therefore incompetent in law”.
Dr. Okonkwo also told the Court of Appeal that Justice Tsoho missed the point and over-reached himself when he held that he was bound by the Court of Appeal decision that ordered a rerun election in Anambra Central irrespective of Supreme Court decisions on pre-election matters.
Reminding that his suit emanated from a pre-election situation, Okonkwo also reminded the court that all matters relating to the Court of Appeal which Justice Tsoho relied upon in delivering his ruling, were all from post-election litigations.
No date has yet been fixed for the matter at the Court of Appeal.
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