Rivers: PDP supports Omehia against Amaechi in tenure legal tussle
As the face-off between Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) deepens, the party yesterday sided with the sacked governor of the oil-rich state, Celestine Omehia, to request the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeals filed by Amaechi and a chieftain of the party, Cyprian Chukwu, over the dispute on the sitting governor's tenure.
Amaechi and Chukwu are, by their appeals, seeking to void the leave granted Omehia by the Court of Appeal, Abuja to appeal an earlier judgment of the Federal High Court in relation to when Amaechi's first tenure ought to have ended.
Chukwu, in 2010, applied to the Federal High Court, Abuja for the interpretation of the 2007 judgment by the Supreme Court, in determining when election was due in Rivers State in 2011.
Omehia was sacked as Rivers State governor in 2007 on the basis of the Supreme Court judgment and Amaechi pronounced the governor in October 2007.
In deciding Chukwu's case, Justice Abdulkadir Abdul-Kafarati of the Federal High Court held that by virtue of the Supreme Court's judgment, Amaechi's first tenure ended on May 28, 2011 and not in October 2011.
Justice Abdul-Kafarati held that since the apex court had held that it was the PDP that won the election and the election having not been set aside, the tenure began to run on May 29, 2007 even though Omehia wrongly occupied the office.
Dissatisfied, Amaechi appealed the judgment by Justice Abdul-Kafarati. Shortly after Amaechi appealed, Omehia, who was not a party in the suit at the trial court, applied to the Court of Appeal to be made a party to enable him also appeal the judgment.
Despite opposition by Amaechi and Chukwu, the Court of Appeal granted Omehia's prayer, a decision Amaechi and Chukwu appealed at the Supreme Court.
Yesterday, parties adopted their briefs of argument. The court adjourned till February 7 for judgment.
The PDP opposed Omehia's moves to be made a party in the case before the Court of Appeal, but yesterday, it sided with Omehia and urged the court to dismiss both appeals.
Lawyers to Amaechi and Chukwu, Messrs Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Rickey Tarfa (SAN), drew the apex court's attention to the sudden change in the position of Mr Olusola Oke, the lawyer representing the PDP.
Fagbemi and Tarfa wondered why Oke appeared to have changed his position, having earlier aligned with them at the lower court.
Oke, while adopting his briefs, urged the court to dismiss both appeals and uphold the decision of the appellate court, which granted Omehia leave to appeal Justice Abdul-Kafarati's judgment.
He urged the apex court to ignore the technicalities raised by the appellants in seeking to void the leave granted Omehia.
Omehia's lawyer, Nnaemeka Udechukwu (SAN), argued in a similar manner as Oke, praying the court to dismiss the appeals.
Tarfa urged the court to allow the appeal and void the leave granted Omehia on the grounds that the appellate court acted in error.
He argued that Omehia did not place sufficient materials before the court to warrant the granting of the leave granted him.
Tarfa further argued that Omehia's application was wrongly filed because he applied for permission about 200 days after the trial court had delivered its judgment.
Fagbemi argued that as an interested party, who sought to appeal the decision of a case he did not participate in at the trial stage, Omehia failed to comply with the necessary constitutional requirements.
He also queried Omehia's locus to appeal the trial court's judgment because he failed to satisfy the court that he had a special interest to protect.
Fagbemi argued that Omehia's claim to being interested in contesting the 2011 governorship election was not a sufficient ground for granting him leave because he was just one out of the several people who were interested in contesting the election.
Fagbemi argued that Omehia hid from the court, the fact that he actually participated in the 2011 election under the banner of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
He contended that having enjoyed the benefit of the trial court's judgment by contesting the 2011 governorship under APGA, he could not turn around to attack the same judgment.
Fagbemi also argued that Omehia was left with no interest to protect, having contested the 2011 election under another party and lost.