ACN Petition Acting President Of Court Of Appeal Over Judges' Conduct
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has petitioned the Acting President of the Court of Appeal over the activities of two judges of the Appeal Court and called for urgent relocation of the panel of Justices from the Court of Appeal, Makurdi Division.
According to a letter titled 'Petition Against the Panel of Judges of the Court of Appeal, Makurdi Division (Muhammed Ladan Tsamiya JCA, Ali Abubakar Babandi Gumel JCA, Uchechukwu Onyemenam JCA', dated September 26, 2011 and made available to Huhuonline.com / , the ACN expressed its reservations on the conduct of the judges.
The petition signed by Comrade Abba Yaro, Benue state chairman of ACN alleged that the two judges of the Appeal Court 'holds strong political views in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and that their antecedents are decidedly partisan.'
'The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Benue State sponsored Prof Steve Torkuma Ugbah as the Governorship Candidate of the party in the April 26 2011 Governorship Election in Benue State.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election and the declaration of Rt. Hon. Gabriel Torwua Suswam of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Steve Torkuma Ugbah with the party instituted a petition with number GET/BN/02/2011 challenging the declaration at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Makurdi on the 17th day of May 2011.
At the close of pleadings by all the parties, Prof Steve Torkuma Ugbah and ACN (Petitioners) applied for the issuance of pre hearing forms by motion ex parte and the Tribunal granted the application on 29th June 2011.
'Rather than appeal against the Tribunal's order invoking the pre-hearing, the Counsel to the Respondents chose to apply to the Tribunal to set aside its order of 29/06/2011. On the 18th day of July 2011 when their applications were to be determined, Chief Solo Akuma SAN, Counsel to the 2nd Respondent (PDP) withdrew his motion on notice dated 4th July, 2011 and his reply on points of law dated 12th July, 2011 and was accordingly struck out by the Tribunal since no counsel opposed the withdrawal. The 1st Respondent (Gabriel Torwua Suswam) and 3rd Respondent (INEC) moved their applications on which the Tribunal delivered its ruling on the 19th day of July 2011 and dismissed the motions for lack of merit and upheld that paragraph 18(1) did not specify the method of application for the issuance of pre-hearing forms and as such a motion ex parte was in order.
'Gabriel Torwua Suswam and the PDP filed separate appeals before Court of Appeal Makurdi Division challenging the ruling delivered by the Tribunal on 19th day of July 2011 and among other reliefs asked the Court of Appeal to dismiss our petition. We shall save your Lordship time by not going into the details of the judgments delivered by Justice A. A. B Gumel and Justice U. Onyemenam since we have annexed same to our petition for ease of reference. The appeal by Gabriel Torwua Suswam was subsequently dismissed for lacking in merit and the court held that paragraph 18(1) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) did not specify the mode of application and as such a motion on notice, ex parte or even a letter can be used by a petitioner to invoke pre-hearing.
'However, we wish to draw your Lordship's attention specifically to the judgment delivered by Justice Uchechukwu Onyemenam and consented to by the other judges of the panel and state that, the ruling and all the details did not reflect the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who in the first instance did not have any locus standi to file an appeal since their Counsel withdrew their application challenging the invocation of pre-hearing before the Tribunal. The judges relied on paragraph 47(1) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and declared the ruling of the Tribunal on 29 th June 2011 invoking pre-hearing without leave a nullity even though the Appellants did not appeal against the ruling.
'The contradictions in the two judgments delivered by the same panel on the same day in the same case are most embarrassing. For instance, if in the first judgment, the Learned Justices held that paragraph 18(1) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) does not stipulate the method of application for pre-hearing and any mode (including a letter) used by the Petitioners is appropriate, how would the same court turn around to demand in the second judgment that the application in paragraph 18(1) is predicated on leave sought and obtained in paragraph 47(1)?
'Another anomaly observed in the second judgment is that the judgment is replete with facts from the case of Senator Daniel Saror & Anor Vs Gabriel Torwua Suswam & 4 others. Meanwhile, the appeal against Senator Daniel Saror instituted by Gabriel Torwua Susuwam and the PDP is yet to be heard and determined. Thirdly and most importantly, whereas the Respondents did not appeal against the ruling of 29/06/2011 convoking the pre-hearing session, the judgment of the Court of Appeal set aside that order.
'Ordinarily, we have appealed against the judgment and should await the outcome of our appeal but we are disturbed by persistent information reaching us that, the current panel of the Court of Appeal has been compromised to rule against the ACN in all-important decisions of that court. Further information reaching us from Sokoto and Ebonyi States are to the effect that, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya (PJ) and Uchechukwu Onyemenam hold strong political views in favour of the PDP and that their antecedents are decidedly partisan.
'Meanwhile, Governor Suswam has been making public statements throughout Benue State to the effect that he has 'taken care' of the Justices of the Court of Appeal and those of he second legislative Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, Benue State to render decision in favour of the PDP. This will manifest in the appeal of Hon. Terhemen Tarzoor (Makurdi North State Constituency) whose election was nullified by the Legislative Tribunal where Justice Uchechukwu Onyemenam has assured that, she will set aside the decision of the Tribunal and uphold his election.
'Your Lordship, from the foregoing, we have no other choice but to draw the following conclusions from the action of the judges that:-
1. The judgment delivered on the 16th day of September 2011 was compromised with financial inducement by Governor Gabriel Suswam and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
2. The Court of Appeal Judges made a declaration on an appeal that was not before them. Governor Gabriel Suswam and the PDP had gone on appeal challenging the ruling of the Tribunal delivered on 19th July 2011 in which the Tribunal refused to set aside her ruling of 29 th June 2011 for commencing of pre hearing. Instead of adjudicating on the issue before the court, it gave orders concerning the ruling of 29th June 2011, which was not appealed against.
3. It is also very clear that the Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal did not make any recourse to the records from the Tribunal before delivering their judgment. This is because they relied on the motion moved by the PDP, which was refused by the Tribunal while in actual fact, PDP withdrew their motion but only associated itself with other respondents in the matter.
4. The ACN petition was at no time consolidated with that of Senator Daniel Saror to have warranted the confusion of facts of both cases in the judgment.
1. In view of the concerns raised above, we humbly request that this panel of Justices be moved away from the Court of Appeal, Makurdi Division.
'Finally, we wish to associate ourselves with the resolve of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapha to reform the Nigerian judiciary in order to restore public confidence in the judiciary to foster the promotion of democratic values in Nigeria.
'We have attached a copy of the judgment delivered by Justice Uchechukwu Onyemenam to this petition for ease of reference.
'Please accept assurances of the highest regard and esteem of the Benue State Working Committee of our great party, the Action Congress of Nigeria.'
According to Huhuonline.com / source, copies of the petition were also made available to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), the National Judicial Council (NJC), President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Abuja, Justices of the Court of Appeal Makurdi Division, Benue State and the National Chairman, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
An angry member of the ACN observed that 'the PDP is no longer hiding its corruptive influence over the judiciary and the judiciary is no longer hiding its subservience to the PDP. When you see such picture of rot, know that danger is nigh. And that the state of nature beckons'.
Meanwhile findings are rife that one of the Justices mentioned in this Petition, Justice Uche Onyemenam was a member of the National Assembly Petition Tribunal, Calabar in 2009 that heard a Petition filed by the candidates of PPA and AC respectively against Bassey Eko Ewa of the PDP (Member representing Yakurr/Abi Federal Constituency of Cross River, House of Representatives) over the 2007 election.
The case was struck out over certain technical objection but shortly afterwards; Justice Onyemenam was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
It was however later alleged that the Tribunal was compromised with tonnes of money raised by the PDP government of Cross River State.