By Henry Umoru
CHAIRMAN, Senate Committee on Petroleum( Upstream), Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Akwa Ibom North East, has petitioned the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA to as a matter of urgency, carry out a holistic investigation into a motion filed to set aside the final judgement of the Court of Appeal.
Senator Akpan in a letter dated 28, October, 2019, addressed to the Secretary, Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee of NBA and made available to Vanguard, asked the Committee to imvestigate why Yunus Ustaz Usmsn, SAN filed the motion of notice.
The petition is entitled, “COMPLAINT AGAINST YUNUS USTAZ USMAN FOR HIS ROLE IN FILING MOTION ON NOTICE NO. CA C NACA SEN 454M 19 IN APPEAL NO. CA C EPT SEN 368 2019:HON BASSEY ETIM& ANOR V. SEN. BASSEY AKPAN & ORS:”
He said, “In fairness to the foregoing, I consider lt my duty as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to bring this Motion On Notice and the conduct of the SAN involved hoping that by so doing, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee will have the opportunity of appraising the conduct of the SAN involved in order to detennlne whether he still deserves a place in the Inner Bar and the privileges accorded to that exalted rank of lawyers.
According to Akpan, ” This silence on this very important issue of notice betrays the sincerity of the application filed by Yunus Ustaz Usman praying the Court of Appeal to set aside the decision and retry the appeal by the said new panel, constituted by the “order” of the PCA which was never brought to the attention of the Court of Appeal.
” I am persuaded by the facts and circumstances of the case to hold the view that said letter of 11th of October, 2019 was not in existence as at the time and date the judgment was delivered by the Court of Appeal, otherwise, what any reasonable person could have expected of the 2nd Appellant and its counsel was to draw the attention of the panel to the letter or even, without putting the letter before the Panel, inform the Justices from the Bar of such letter and “order” constituting a new panel to hear the appeal. Unfortunately, this was not done.
“Complaint As Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for a second time on a row, and knowing the fact that the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria is conferred on lawyers for exemplary practice founded on excellence and distinction, this kind of application, ought not to be associated with a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who by the processes and counsel proceeding from hls desk should represent the best which that the Bar can be.
“I therefore find it incompatible with the dignity and honour which the exalted rank of a SAN ls ldentified with that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria will file a process which he knows, does not have any basis either in law or facts and constitutes an abuse of process.
“In the instant case, Yunus Ustaz Usman, SAN conceded that there was communication gap which implied that the Court of Appeal Justices were not aware of the purported letter of 11’” October, 2019 whlch set up the supposed new panel. The sketchy and scanty affidavit in support of the Motion 0n Notice shows that this is one process that is motivated by ill will and should not be allowed to clog the cause list of any court. A Senior Advocate of Yunus Ustaz Usman status ought to know that an application of this nature which offends the rules of ethics of his profession will only serve to diminish the honour and dignity of the inner Bar and the court.”
Giving background information on the matter, Senator Akpan said, “Soon after the National Assembly Elections held for the election of the member of Senate for Akwa lbom North-East Senatorial District, which I won with a wide margin, Hon. Bassey Offiong Etim who contested the election with me on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) and lost, petitioned the Nationai Assembly Election Tribunal, sitting at Akwa Ibom. Having lost in the petition. he filed an appeal against the judgment of the Election Tribunal to the Court of appeal against the judgment of the Election Tribunal to the Court of Appeal, Calabar Division. His political party, All Progressives Congress (APC) is the 2nd Appellant in the Appeal while I am the 1st respondent.
“The Court of Appeal, after hearing parties to the appeal fixed the 15th of October, 2019 (Tuesday) for the delivery of judgment. Owing to the letter of 4th October, 2019 written by All Progressives Congress, the 2nd Appellant on record, the political party that sponsored the 1“ appellant requesting for another panel of the court to take over the appeal, the court adjourned the case. On the 18th of October, 2019, the Court of Appeal, coram: Mojeed A. Owoade, Yargata B. Nimpar, and Muhammed L. Shuaibu J.JCA, in well considered judgment unanimously dismissed Hon. Bassey Offiong Etim’s Appeal and affirmed the judgment of the lower tribunal (please see attached certified true copy of judgement).
“As at this date, there was no notice to the Justices that sat in the panel of the court, the parties and their counsel, that the Hon. President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), acting on the strength of the letter from APC requesting for the transfer of the appeal, had constituted another panel of the court to take over the hearing of the appeal.
“The respondents, and their counsel became aware of the purported new panei, for the first time when they received the Motion On Notice dated the 24th day of October, 2019, filed by Yunus Ustaz Usman, SAN for the appellants, praying the Court of Appeal, for an order setting aside the decision of the Court of Appeal in the said appeal delivered on the 18th of October, 2019; and for an retrying the appeal by the new panel as ordered by the President of the Court of Appeal in her letter of 11th of October, 2019, which was neither brought to the notice of the court nor the parties and their counsel. This was after they were served with a Hearing Notice fixing the motion for hearing on the 25th of October, 2019.
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“The 2nd appellant who wrote the letter to the PCA requesting for a new panel to be constituted to hear the appeal, was represented in court by one Reuben nguaba Esq., who was recorded as counsel for the appellants. Also, the 2nd appellant was represented in court by one of their party stalwarts. Neither the counsei nor the 2nd appellant deemed it fit to bring the said letter of 11th October, 2019, which according to Yunus Ustaz Usman, SAN was same as the “order” of the President of the Court of Appeal which constituted a new panel to hear the appeal.”