By Tony Edike
A panel of the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu is expected to lay to rest today the long-drawn legal battle by Dr. Emmanuel Andy Uba who is seeking the revalidation of the governorship mandate given to him by the people of Anambra State in 2007.
Further hearing of the case was fixed for today.Â Uba had approached virtually all the superior courts in the land to seek redress over the constitutional issue that truncated his mandate after he had spent barely two weeks as governor of Anambra State elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Appellate Court, which on February 18 2008, upheld Ubaâ€™s election as governor of Anambra , had adjourned tillÂ October 19 to rule on an application by Uba who prayed for a declaratory order by the court for him to enforce the judgment by automatically taking over as governor on March 17, 2010 when Obiâ€™s tenure is expected to expire.
But many observers who trooped to the court premises as early as 7 am Monday were disappointed as officials of the court told them few hours later that the case would no longer come up that day and went further to announce a new date which is today. No official reason was given for the shift.
The court presided over by Justice J. S. Ngwuta had at its sitting on September 28 adjourned the case following the receipt of an application from Chief Nwafor Orizu,Â counsel to the first respondent in the case and a governorship aspirant of the PDP in Anambra, Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu, in which he informed the court that he had already filed for adjournment of the case, pending the ruling of the Supreme Court in his application seeking for an order that election be conducted in the state on February 6 next year. The apex court has since thrown out the case setting the stage for hearing of Ubaâ€™s fresh case at the Appeal Court, Enugu.
The fresh application by Uba, no doubt, would change the political landscape in the country particularly if it is decided in his favour. It would not only enthrone another administration in the state after the exit of the outgoing Governor Peter Obi of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), it would also truncate the scheduled February 6, governorship election in the state for which former governor of the Central Bank, Professor Chukwuma Soludo had already been selected as candidate of the PDP.
While explaining the rationale for Ubaâ€™s return to the appeal court, Uba’s lawyerÂ Wole Olanipekun (SAN) hadÂ said: “I,Â counsel to Chief Uba had told newsmen on September 28 when the new case was mentioned that my client was in court to possibly put an end to the controversies and confusion that had trailed the governorship seat of Anambra.”
HeÂ notedÂ that it was not the intention of Uba to ridicule the judiciary. â€œItâ€™s about law. We are very happy that one of the respondents to our application has gone to the Supreme Court seeking for an order for election to be held in the state next year. We are happy because there have been lots of confusion in the minds of the public as to what we are here for. We are here because Mr. A won an election which can only be nullified by the Tribunal or Court of Appeal, but another Mr. U went to the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court asking for the elongation of his tenure.
â€œThe Apex court granted his prayers that he should go and exhaust his tenure, but later, the Court of Appeal sitting here in Enugu gave a ruling setting aside the ruling of the lower tribunal which had struck out the same case based on the Supreme Court ruling, making it clear that the dismissal of the matter based on the Supreme Court ruling was erroneous. We are therefore here to insist that there should be consequential relief that should be granted to the benefit of the appellant whose application had succeeded at the Appeal levelâ€ .
On June 14, 2007, the Supreme Court, acting on a motion by Governor Obi of All Progressiveâ€™s Grand Alliance (APGA) declared that Obi was entitled to a four-year tenure as governor and that the four year should begin counting from the 17th of March, 2006 when theÂ Court of Appeal, Enugu, sacked Dr. Chris Ngige of the PDP as governor.
In a landmark judgment, the apex court ruled that the nearly three years spent by Ngige could not have been part of Obiâ€™s tenure, and ordered Uba to vacate office for Obi to complete his tenure.
Following this judgment of the Supreme Court, the Elections Petitions Tribunal which had begun to sit in Awka, on July 19, 2007, citing the Supreme Court judgment, nullified Ubaâ€™s election.
â€œSince the gubernatorial election in Anambra State on the 14/4/2007 was a nullity, in the light of the Supreme Court judgment referred to above, we hereby declare the said gubernatorial election, the subsequent inauguration and any steps in furtherance of the said election a nullityâ€, the panel which comprised of Justices James Abiriyi, Ayuba Kwajaffa, Peter Isibor, Biobele Georgewill and Abubakar Lamido, declared.
The tribunal went ahead to strike-out the petitions, including the cross-petition, which it also held were nullity. But apparently dissatisfied, Uba approached the Court of Appeal, Enugu, praying the court to set aside the decision of the lower tribunal since, in Ubaâ€™s words, the tribunal erred in nullifying his election.
On February 18, 2008, the Court of Appeal in the lead judgment by Justice Mohammad Muntaka-Coomassie, affirmed: â€œBy virtue of section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act, this court hereby order as following:-Â that the orders of nullification made by the lower tribunal on July 19, 2007 as they affect each of the consolidated appeals in the Governorship/National Assembly and Legislative Houses of Election Tribunal, Anambra State sitting in Awka are hereby revoked and discharged.â€
Following this decision by the Court of Appeal which revoked the decision of the tribunal,Â Uba again returned to the same court to make a declaratory order on its February 18, 2008 judgment.Â Uba had told the court through his counsel, Olanipekun, that, â€œOur submission, is that the applicantâ€™s reliefs are located on stronger legal groundÂ than that ofÂ Rotimi Amaechi.