Enugu guber tusle: Supreme Court dismisses application for substitution

By The Citizen

Attempt to upturn the nomination of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as the party's candidate for the 2015 governorship election has suffered a major setback at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in Abuja on Friday gave ruling on an application seeking reliefs against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)  in relation to the Enugu Gubernatorial Primaries  held in 2014.

The application sought among others an order of substitution to replace the names of the Plaintiffs at the trial court,  Barr. Chinenye Orji, Chief C.C Akalusi, and Chief Orji C. Orji, with new names, namely Ejiofor Apeh, Ude Celestine, and Ossai Moses.

The Plaintiffs after the judgement of the Court of Appeal did not appeal against it.

The application also sought leave for the Applicants to appeal out of time against the judgement of the Court of Appeal, which was in favour of the PDP.

The application was consequently dismissed by the Supreme Court for lacking in merit.

It could be recalled that the apex court has in January 2017, specifically dismissed a motion filed by an associate of Senator Ayogu Eze, seeking to substitute the appellants to the appeal challenging the Court of Appeal's decision that set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court, which upheld the list of delegates used in the PDP governorship primary election in Enugu State.

The list of the three-man delegates allegedly confirmed by the Federal High Court Abuja in November 2014, was the basis upon which Senator Ayogu Eze laid claim to being the validly nominated candidate of the PDP.

However, the Court of Appeal had in a judgment delivered sometime in 2015, upheld the appeal brought by the PDP, and set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court on the delegates list.

Although the 1st to 3rd respondents in the appeal at the Court of Appeal, namely Barr. Chinenye Orji, Chief C.C Akalusi, and Chief Orji C. Orji, did not appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, a group of purported delegates, namely Ejiofor Apeh, Ude Celestine, and Ossai Moses, appealed to the Supreme Court against the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

After filing the appeal in their names, Ejiofor Apeh and others also applied to the Supreme Court for an order to replace the names of Chinenye Orji and others with their names. In the opinion of legal experts, unless the Ayogu faction got the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Ayogu's claim to having won the PDP gubernatorial primaries was bound to fail.

However, the five-man Supreme Court panel refused their application, stating that they should have appealed with the names of the original appellants, Chinenye Orji and others.

Delivering the apex court's ruling, Hon. Justice Centus Nweze, held that it was curious that Chinenye Orji and others who were the original respondents in the Court of Appeal, sought to be replaced, were not even served with the application for leave to substitute them.

The Court held: 'This is rather strange; service of the process is so important that any dereliction in this regard is bound to vitiate the entire proceedings, no matter how well conducted.

'In the instant application, the named plaintiffs were not only entitled to be served with the motion paper, but also the hearing notice that was scheduled for October 27, 2015. Thus, failure to issue and serve hearing notice is a denial of justice.

'The worrisome effect is that the applicants herein most disingenuously, attempted to goad this court into favouring them with reliefs, which, in effect, would have amounted to a denial of the named plaintiffs' right to fair hearing. To say the least, this would have been a most sacrilegious judicial exercise of discretion.'

Dismissing the application as vexatious and lacking in merit, the Hon. Justice added: 'I find no scintilla of merit in this application. Accordingly, I find that it must be, and it is hereby struck out as being not only wantonly, frivolous, but utterly vexatious.'