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APGA: Appeal Court Reserves Judgment

By PETRUS OBI, Enugu
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The Appeal Court in Enugu has reserved judgment on the appeal filed by Chief Victor Umeh, seeking to upturn his removal as the national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) by an Enugu State High Court.

The court yesterday reserved judgment after the parties in the suit adopted their written addresses and made oral submissions before the three-man special panel. Addressing the panel comprising Justices Paul Galinje (Chairman), Kwasami F.A. and Tom Yakubu, lead counsel to the appellant, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who led Patrick Ikwueto (SAN) and others, urged the appellate court to set aside the judgment of the lower court, on the basis that the respondent, Jude Okuli, who filed the suit had no locus standi.

He explained that the respondent was expelled from APGA before he filed the suit in the lower court, adding that he did not go to the lower court to ask for reinstatement before the trial judge reinstated him.

Stressing that the lower court delivered a contradictory judgment, Olanipekun said the fact that APGA was not joined as a party could be fatal to the case and had rendered the matter incompetent. Olanipekun contended that even when the judge found out that the parties in the matter disagreed over affidavit evidence, he did not call for oral evidence as required by the court, but went ahead to deliver judgment.

He made it clear that the lower court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter since it bothered on the internal affairs of a political party. He insisted that the matter was not appropriate for determination based on an originating summons, adding that the judge was hostile in his proceedings and judgment.

Countering the argument, lead counsel to the respondent, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) said the case could not be set aside by reason of non joinder of APGA, for the main reason that the complaint was directed to Chief Victor Umeh, personally based on his arbitrary conduct.

Ikpeazu said it wasn't really an APGA matter, but a grouse between individuals within the party, just as he contended that the appellant didn't make the issue of locus standi the main grouse in the appeal. Ikpeazu said the law was clear on the issue of jurisdiction “that where a party or a member of the party violates the constitution of the party, the court will have jurisdiction.”

He said where the allegation was for the court to interpret a provision of the constitution with a view to determining that a particular party had principle that exceeded its rights, it is a matter in which the court had jurisdiction.

After hearing the submissions of the parties, the court reserved judgment in the case for a date to be communicated to the counsel.