By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Supreme Court, yesterday, reserved its ruling on an appeal the All Progressives Congress, APC, seeking to secure an order that will enable it to field candidates in the forthcoming elections in Rivers State.
A five-man panel of Justices of the apex court adjourned to rule on the competence of the appeal that was lodged by a faction of the APC in the state loyal to Senator Magnus Abe, who is a factional gubernatorial aspirant of the party in the state.
The panel led by Justice Mohammed Dattijo, which had earlier fixed March 8 to deliver judgment in the matter, reconvened, yesterday, following a motion praying the apex court to fastrack the proceeding so as to meet the 60 days time frame that was stipulated in the Electoral Act.
It will be recalled that the Supreme Court had on December 12, adjourned till March to determine the legality or otherwise of primary elections the APC conducted in Rivers State for the purpose of nominating its candidates for the 2019 polls.
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The apex court okayed judgment in the case on a day another faction of the APC loyal to the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, begged it to dismiss the appeal challenging the process that led to the emergence of Mr Tonye Cole as its gubernatorial flag-bearer in Rivers State.
While adopting their brief of argument, the appellants, through their lawyer, Mr. Henry Bello, urged the Supreme Court to re-affirm the ruling it delivered on October 22, and nullify outcomes of the primary election that produced Cole and other candidates in the faction of the party that is loyal to Amaechi.
The appellants equally urged the apex court to dismiss a pending appeal marked CA/PH/198/2015, which the said faction lodged before the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal.
However, APC’s lawyer, Dr. Kayode Olatoke, SAN, prayed the Supreme Court to dismiss the case and uphold the list of candidates that were Okayed by leadership of the party.
At the resumed proceeding, yesterday, Bello, applied for the appeal to be struck out, insisting that it had been overtaken by events and expiration of time.
However, counsel that represented the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, noted that whereas the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt struck out one of the appeals that bordered on consent judgment of the high court, he maintained that the current appeal at the Supreme Court was not related to the consent verdict.
Besides, Fagbemi argued that the appeal was not a pre-election matter since what was being challenged was the election of officers to the Wards, Local Government and State Congresses of the APC.