The frosty relationship between Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi and his ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) manifested on Monday at the Supreme Court, where his political platform threw its weight behind the plot by his political rival and former governor, Celestine Omehia, to sack him from office.
Both the initiators of the legal action at the court, Chief Cyprian Chukwu and the Governor had asked the Apex Court to shut the door against Omehia in the appeal pending before the Court of Appeal.
After taking submissions of counsels to parties in the twin appeals, the Apex Court, presided over by Justice Muhamed Muntaka-Coomasie, reserved its judgment till February 7, 2014.
Although it was Governor Amaechi that approached the court to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal to join Omehia in the substantive appeal before it, Chukwu equally followed him to the Apex Court with his own appeal.
Arguing his case on Monday, Amaechi’s legal team, led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) with Akin Olujinmi (SAN) and Chief Awa Kalu (SAN) moved the Apex Court to set aside the decision of the appellate court, which allowed Omehia to join the appeal before it on the ground that he was an interested party.
They faulted the decision of the Court of Appeal and supported their position with references to Sections 241 and 243 of the 1999 Constitutions.
They submitted that under Section 243, a person, who was not a party in a proceeding could only lodge an appeal after obtaining the leave of the court. While under Section 241, a person could appeal as of right if he was already a party, with a caveat, “once the time within which to appeal has expired, in addition to a relief for leave to appeal as an interested party, there must be the trinity prayers by the combined effect of Sections 241, 242 (1) and 243 of the 1999 Constitution.”
They further argued that after taking benefit of the judgment of the court by participating in the election as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Omehia could not now turn back to attack the same judgment.
Counsel to Chukwu, Chief Ricky Tarfa, also urged the court to stop Omehia from joining the proceedings at the Court of Appeal and prayed that Ameachi’s appeal be allowed.
On his part, the PDP represented in court by its former national legal adviser, Chief Olushola Oke, made a U-turn from its earlier submissions at the Court of Appeal, where it vehemently opposed Omehia’s application for joinder and threw its weight behind Omehia by asking the Apex Court to dismiss the two appeals for lacking in merit.
According to him, “a person who is likely to be affected by the outcome of any proceeding is an interested party.”
In his own submissions, counsel to Omehia, Chief Udechukwu Undechukwu, adopted the submissions of counsel to the PDP and urged the court to dismiss the two appeals.
In the case of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it said in the spirit of neutrality, it would not take sides but abide by the decision of the court.
In his judgment, Justice Abdul Kafarati back-dated Amaechi’s tenure, saying though the governor was sworn in on October 26, 2007, his tenure would end on May 28, 2011 or May 2015 as the case may.
His reasoning was that since the Supreme Court said it was the PDP that won the April 2007 governorship election in Rivers State, and not the candidate (Amaechi), the tenure started counting on May 29, 2007 when Omehia was sworn in.###