… As Hon Aye Pepple Face Renewed APGA Litigation
Hon Aye Atamah Pepple of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, may have been pronounced winner in the last Rivers State House of Assembly election that took place in Bonny Constituency, but there are strong indications that all may not be uhuru for the lawmaker as Hon. Ajay Banigo of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA who ran against him in the election has started instituting another process in a renewed legal tussle.
Following the outcome of a recent legal battle, involving the Labor party and the wife of former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu of the Action Congress, where the National Judicial Commission, NJC ordered that a matter that was scrapped by the tribunal in favor of a third party who never replied to a petition must be returned back to court, insisting that there was no basis for the matter to be scrapped when one of the respondents did not reply. Counsel to the Bonny APGA House of Assembly candidate is putting his acts together with a view to renew its legal battle against the PDP opponent. The APGA counsel is praying the National Judicial Commission to intervene and return the matter between his client and Aye Pepple who wrongly benefited from the tribunal’s judgment in a case Pepple never responded to a tribunal petition against his supposed victory at the polls.
Banigo’s counsel is also banking on an order by the Chief Judge of the federation, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, that henceforth, all political litigations in court must be treated on its merit and not on the usual grounds of technicalities that has now been abused referencing the case involving the Akwa Ibom and Benue state governors which have since been ordered for re-trial.
Hon. Ajay Banigo is faulting the handling of his election petition at the State House of Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal in Port Harcourt insisting that the panel judges had no reason giving judgment in favour of a respondent that never replied to a petition and the ill fated ruling above the stipulated 60 days mark..
In a petition written to the Chief Justice of the federation and Chairman, National Judicial Commission, Hon. Justice Dahiru Musdapher, the APGA candidate held that consequent upon the result announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC declaring the PDP candidate, Hon. Aye Atamah Pepple winner without conformity with the realities on ground, the party had filed a petition at the tribunal, expecting the PDP respondents Hon. Aye Pepple to reply, however his counsel failed to reply at the stipulated time cand demanded to file the said reply at a time belated which was however not allowed by the tribunal.
The tribunal refused Pepple’s application for extension of time but surprisingly ordered that both the APGA and PDP parties be issued with pre-hearing conference forms TF 007 and TF 008 on the last day of the time allowed by the Electoral Act for the application for pre trial. Regardless of the perceived blunder by the tribunal, both parties complied and promptly, filled and submitted the forms as directed to the tribunal secretary.
However, in a controversial circumstance the PDP respondent allegedly brought an application urging the tribunal to dismiss the petition having been abandoned, and for the fact that the APGA candidate did not reply for pre trial within the stipulated time.
Based on this seeming conspiracy between the respondent and the tribunal panel, the APGA counsel argued the opposing application strenuously, holding that if the court had not on its own ordered the tribunal secretary to issue pre trial forms to his client they would have applied on that day.
In a desperate display of double standard unworthy of members of the honorable panel, and the fact that it reversed its earlier decision, the judge painfully went ahead to dismiss the APGA petition even as the respondent had nothing before the court.
Confused about the basis for the dismissal and the opposing application the APGA counsel queried who his client would have conferred with considering that a conference is bilateral, multilateral but never unilateral.
There were arguments, especially against the backdrop that the judges were well disposed of the realities on ground but still went ahead to make their decisions based on a “volte face” on the date of the ruling. This confusion left a serious question mark on what actually transpired between the date of the argument or motion and the date of the ruling.
The petition which was also copied to Hon. Justice M.L Uwais, Chairman of the National Judicial reform Committee and J.B Daudu, SAN National President of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA it held that having detected errors in the judgment and the quest to seek justice the APGA candidate filed an appeal against the ruling with arguments made on 20th September 2011.
That further proved abortive as the panel has already taken sides delaying its own judgment without any conceivable excuse only to blatantly deliver a ruling outside the time prescribed by the law.
The judgment was done in error according to observers who recalled that the National Judicial Commission has ordered that all political litigations must be concluded within 6 months which obviously was over shot in contras to the period approved.
When some newsmen caught up with Ajay Banigo of APGA, he said the case will be pursued to its logical end querying the reason why people should be allowed to swallow hook line and sinker glaring cases of injustice perpetrated with impunity and without regard for the integrity of the judicial profession.
Others insist that the matter should be recalled and treated on its merit. The case is interestingly coming at a time a recent judgment between CPC and PDP was ruled with the Supreme Court handing down an order that 60 days must now be mandatory and not discretional for the Appeal Court judges to round up and give there final verdicts on political matters.
If the position of the Chief Justice of the federation is anything to go by, then there is need for the Banigo vs Aye matter to be recalled having been judged along the lines of technicalities as Banigo had an obvious case that shouldn’t have been swept under the carpet.
The APGA petitioners are appealing to the relevant authorities to use their good offices to cause an open and unbiased review of the petition starting from the tribunal up to the court of appeal with a view to unraveling the truth of the matter and to do substantial justice to the oppressed.
When newsmen caught up with the APGA candidate he expressed confident that in this time of judicial reforms, expressing confidence that the NJC would accede to his request as it was obvious the APGA candidate was judicially swindled and cheated in a clear rape of justice aided by the government in power in Rivers state. The APGA counsel who has never hidden his dissatisfaction with the judges involved in the case further held that the two judges on both panels were obviously compromised.