By Dr. Inyang Oduok
Forum Citizens might be spelled bound as report emerges that Udoedehe v. Akpabio’s case was “struck out by the court of appeals holding in Calabar.”
Concerned about the aspersion Udoedehe’s faithfuls might cast on the integrity of the court, if the report is true, I have decided to provide analysis of what is most likely going on in the case for those who are interested to know. In doing so, I am not trying to persuade the cynical ones who might still be of the impression that “the justices are corrupt and have been bribed by Akpabio”
Again the problem seems to be incompetent representation by the parade of out of State Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) representing Senator Udoedehe.
It seems to me that Udoeedehe’s lawyers should have known that their appeal of the original dismissal of the case does not automatically stay the running of the 180 days limitation period required by law in disposing election disputes on the merits. Consequently, they should have moved the Tribunal for a stay of the running of the 180 days until the final disposition of the case by the reviewing courts without prejudice to the right of Senator Udoedehe to Petition the Tribunal to reinstate the case or reopen the case for good cause shown.
They “did not seek a stay” I presume. In considering request for a stay, courts usually take into consideration the possibility of irreparable injury in the event that the reviewing court reverses their decision especially cases of such public importance as this.
The error is jurisdictional – meaning that the Tribunal lost subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case after Udoedehe won the case at the Supreme Court and returned to the Tribunal for a hearing on the merits.
For the foregoing reason, the decision of the Tribunal and the court of appeals are in my view legally correct.
The case is now on its second trip, I presume, to the Supreme Court.
We cannot say with certainty what the Supreme Court Justices might decide to do. But rarely do they grant a writ of review on dismissals based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Because the case is so politically contentious, a ruling in either direction would send an encouraging message that the court is an honest empire. However, the fact that the highest court reverses rulings of the Tribunal does not mean nor should it be construed that the Judges of the Tribunal and Justices of the court of appeals were “bribed.”
Meanwhile, every legal victory means a political success for Governor Akapbio.
Dr. Oduok writes from Atlanta, Georgia.