By NBF News

As the controversy over the appointment of the President of the Court of Appeal,Justice Ayo Salami by the National Judicial Council [NJC] rages, Senator Emmanuel Onwe has accused the Supreme Court of trying to destroy the Court of Appeal.

He was joined by the Senatorial candidate of the Labour Party (LP) for the Federal Capital Territory [FCT], Mr. Kayode Ajulo who said the alleged appointment was unprecedented in any legal history of the country.

In condemning the action, Senator Onwe noted: 'The concentrated effort to cut the judicial nose of Justice Ayo Salami, the irrepressible President of the Court of Appeal, in order to spite the face of the Court of Appeal, has attained the proportions of depravity. This act of supreme lawlessness by the Supreme Court is, arguably, linked with the discredited strategy of neutering the authority of the Court of Appeal under Justice Salami's headship.

'The decisions of the Court of Appeal in respect of appeals arising from election petitions shall be final.' - Section 246 (3), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

On 28th January, 2011, five Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered a judgment in two cases in which my interests are engaged:

1) People's Democratic Party vs Dr Emmanuel Onwe and, 2) Senator Julius Ucha vs Dr Emmanuel Onwe.

Their Lordships, namely, Justice Francis Fedode Tabai, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Justice Muhammad Saifulahi Muntaka-Coomasie, Justice John Afolabi Fabiyi and Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, gave a unanimous judgment against me and in favour of the PDP and Senator Julius Ucha. The lead judgment was delivered by Justice Tabai.

In addition, the lawmaker said:'These cases are artificially delineated, for they deal with precisely the same subject matter. Acting in concert, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) illegally substituted my name as the senatorial candidate for Ebonyi Central Senatorial District during the general elections of 2007.

'Consequently, I presented an election petition before the National Assembly/Governorship and Legislative Houses Election Petitions Tribunal in Ebonyi State (EPT/EBS/SEN/AB/12/2007). That Tribunal dismissed my petition and I proceeded to lodge an appeal against the Tribunal's judgment at the Court of Appeal Enugu, sitting in its appellate capacity over election petitions arising from Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu States (APPEAL NO: CA/E/EPT/18/2007).'

He noted that 'on 16th July, 2010, the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment. It went in my favour. The judgement of Justice Ayobode Olujimi Lokulo-Sodipe was as sound as a whistle. It made me proud to be a Nigerian and to be a lawyer. It was a judgment that was altogether induced by reason, logic, argument, statute law and legal precedents. It was firmly grounded in the Constitution of our land.

'The Justices sought no favours from me, either in cash or means otherwise beneficial to them. Had they done so, I would have declined such solicitation.'

On 23rd July, 2010, I was issued with a Certificate of Return by INEC, in recognition of the finality of the judgment of the Court of Appeal. On 10th August, 2010, I was sworn-in as a Senator, in recognition of the finality of the Court of Appeal judgment. I resumed formal duties on 28th September, 2010' he stated.

In his own remarks, Ajulo who describes Salami's elevation to the apex court as 'a mockery of the principle of seniority of the members of the bench. It is even more of a demotion as the President of the Court of Appeal is in a class of its own and takes precedence over any other judicial officer except the Chief Justice of Nigeria [CJN].

The lawyer said the procedure of the appointment was even faulty as the CJN has no role in it but the NJC- a body that would recommend to the President for appointment subject to the confirmation by the National Assembly.