By Our Reporter
The chances of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to field candidates for elective positions in Rivers State are hanging as the Supreme Court on Monday nullified the May 19 to 21, 2018 congress of the party in the state.
The apex court, in its judgement on Monday in Abuja, described the conduct of the party congress as a “serious violation of court order,” just as it berated the Court of Appeal which nullified the High Court order against the controversial congress.
Following an ex-parte application by some aggrieved APC members, led by Abdulahi Umar, a High Court in the state had instructed the party members to suspend plans for the conduct of its local government congress on May 12 pending the determination of the substantive application alleging the marginalisation of some supporters.
Rather than comply with the order, the APC filed an application at the Appeal Court and proceeded to conduct its primaries on basis of the said application.
The APC national leadership, led by its former chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had however in a statement directing a postponement of the congress from May 12 to 19 and consequently directed the state chapter to proceed with the conduct of the congress.
In a decision on the matter on May 31, the lower court headed by Justice Chinwendu Nwogu, said that the APC conducted its congress in outright violation of subsisting court orders.
The judge therefore declared the congress a nullity.
But in a counter ruling, the Appeal Court in Rivers State, the lead judge, Isarah Akeju, overruled Nwogu’s nullification of the APC congress, resulting in a fresh application by Umar at the Supreme Court.
However, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court on Monday, led by Justice Centus Nweze, berated the Appeal Court for affirming the congress and warned that the court would not tolerate attempts to undermine its decision by any Nigerian.
Nweze said: “It is unfortunate and wrongful for the Court of Appeal to entertain a party in contempt of a valid court order, to the extent of granting judicial favour by way of stay of execution of an injunctive order.
“It is a serious matter for anyone to flout a court order and in the instant case, it is clear that the respondent (APC) was in grave disobedience of two lawful court orders.
“It is sacrilegious, ill-fated and a suicide mission for the Court of Appeal to have departed from various decisions of the Supreme Court that any party in contempt of court ought not to be granted judicial discretion and in this matter, Appeal Court is bound to follow Supreme Court final decision,” the apex court ruled.
The now voided congress produced the currently recognised chairman of the APC in Rivers, Ojukaye Amachree, an ally of Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi.
Meanwhile, the camps of Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe have given different interpretations to the judgement
Reacting to the judgement in Port Harcourt, Abe said: “This judgement is historic and affirmed the position of a High Court in Rivers State that the action of the party in excluding members of the party from the processes of the congresses and depriving them their constitutional right was wrong.
“So, for anybody to parade himself as a candidate of the party arising from a process that has clearly being voided by the court is nothing but political rascality. And I think it is time for right thinking members of this party to put this whole thing to an end and put the party in a proper place for the realisation of taking over Rivers State,” he said.
The Ojukaye-led executives of said: “The appeal filed at the Supreme Court by Ibrahim Umar & 22 others of which the ruling was given today, three issues were canvassed before the Supreme Court, one of which was that the Appeal Court did not act correctly by granting a stay of execution on the interlocutory orders of the state High Court.
“The Supreme Court agreed with them. However, the Supreme Court did not make pronouncements on the other issues since the state High Court had already given final judgment on them, an action that has left the present development a mere academic exercise.
“The Supreme Court only granted the appeal in parts and did not make any consequential orders as that can only be subject matter at the Appeal Court when the appeal hearing of the State High Court judgment commences,” it said.