COURT OF APPEAL AS FATHER CHRISTMAS By: OBIORA NDIBE
THE proceedings at the Court of Appeal, Enugu which gave rise to the court's nullification of the election of Senator Andy Uba who represents Anambra South Senatorial district in the Senate are still puzzling.
It will be recalled that in a unanimous judgment delivered on 26th October 2011 by Hon. Justice Onajide Kuejisola, Chairman, Hon. Justice Udu Eze and Hon. Justice Mukhtar, members of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal holden in Awka, upheld the election of Senator Andy Uba.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had earlier declared Senator Uba winner of the April 9, 2011 election in the Senatorial District.
The Tribunal had struck out some of the issues raised by the All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA) against Senator Uba's candidature. They include the sponsorship of two candidates – Senator Andy Uba and Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu by one political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In its ruling, the Tribunal observed that intra party disputes as to who is qualified to be candidate of the PDP at the election are pre-election matters which fall outside the scope of election tribunals, as such matters should be determined by the High Court of a State or Federal High Court.
The Tribunal also ruled that the petition had not established that the manipulation of results in Aguata were enough to affect the result of the Senatorial election. The Tribunal further said that the petitioner did not say elections did not take place in the zone and was also unable to prove corrupt practice or substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
It also noted that Hon. Nzeribe had failed to show what if the inflated figures were taken for the vote devoted to his opponent; the result would change in his favour and finally concluded that Hon. Nzeribe's petition lacked merit.
One of the contestants, the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Hon. Chuma Nzeribe in exercising his right of appeal, did so and filed same at the Court of Appeal, Enugu.
In a sixteen (16) ground of appeal filed by his counsel O. A. Obianwu, SAN, the candidate stated among other issues that the Tribunal erred in law by failing to hold that the election was marred by corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Hon. Nzeribe further requested the Court of Appeal to approve or confirmed that the purported cancellation of the election results in 14 wards out of a number of 118 wards in the senatorial district substantially affected the result of the senatorial election.
The Court of Law is the arbiter in any dispute or among persons. When one approaches a court one is seeking redress for a wrong or praying the court to give one reliefs. This writer is not a lawyer but realises that it is a convention or settled practice that one makes specific requests to a law court.
It is based on these requests that the trial judge gives due attention and consideraion and gives his judgment. If no specific prayers or reliefs are requested in a law court, the trial judge has difficulty in determining what the citizen(s) want him to do for them.
In this particular case, a close study of the Notice of Appeal and Grounds of Appeal of APGA/Hon Chuma Nzeribe at the Court of Appeal, Enugu indicate that there are no reliefs or requests the appellants have made to the Hon. Justices of the Court of Appeal.
The Appellants only filed their grounds of appeal and particulars of error. Surprisingly and very curiously too the Hon. Justices of the Court of Appeal proceeded to cancel the entire election in the senatorial district and ordered a repeat. It is settled that a court of law has no powers to grant a relief not sought or grant more reliefs than are sought.
The Enugu Court of Appeal has assumed the role of a Father Christmas by granting Hon. Nzeribe what he did not ask of them. It is in this light that one appreciates the petition of Senator Andy Uba to the Chairman of National Judicial Council (NJC) which was widely published in the mass media last week.
The circumstances in which the Hon. Trial Justices granted reliefs an appellant did not request for need further inquiry. It is absurd. It is very unusual. Nothing less than a thorough review of this strange judgment will ensure justice to all the parties in the case.
If as is said that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, Sen. Andy Uba deserves fair hearing/review, on these issues just as Hon. Chuma Nzeribe's complaints were listened to in a hurry and victory awarded him, even on issues he did not request.
OBIORA NDIBE, a public affairs analyst,wrote from Lagos.