Court of Appeal Judgment: Umeh Wins

The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal has declined to sack Senator Victor Umeh as the lawmaker representing Anambra Central Senatorial District.
Speaking to Fides in a telephone chat, Senator Umeh said the latest judgement had cleared the road for him, noting that he was now more than ready to fix a date for a Thanksgiving Outing as well as render his account of stewardship. This is even as he said he was prepared to face anyone during the APGA primary election.
A special panel of the appellate court, in a unanimous judgment by a three-man panel of Justices, dismissed as lacking in merit, an appeal that was lodged by the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo.
The court affirmed the decision of Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which had on January 12, reversed a consent judgement that directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue Certificate of Return to Dr. Okonkwo as the validly elected lawmaker for Anambra Central.
Justice Tsoho vacated the consent judgment he delivered on December 13, 2017, following a motion that was filed before the court by INEC.
In setting aside the judgment, Tsoho held that he was misled by the plaintiff who, he noted, suppressed material facts regarding three Appeal Court verdicts that gave INEC 90 days to conduct a fresh election to fill the vacant senatorial seat.
Meanwhile, not satisfied with the decision of the trial court, Okonkwo approached the Court of Appeal to upturn Tsoho’s decision and to order INEC to swear him in as the representative for the Central Senatorial District.
In the notice of appeal that was anchored on 13 grounds, Okonkwo, prayed the Court of Appeal to set aside the January 12, 2018 ruling of the High Court and to reinstate the previous verdict that recognised him as the bona-fide candidate to represent the district.
The Court of Appeal had on February 26, joined Umeh and his party, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, as necessary parties to the appeal.
The court granted the application after it was not opposed by counsel to Okonkwo, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Mrs. Uche Ekwunife.
Whereas Ekwunife and PDP failed to file any process in the appeal, however, Umeh and APGA urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit and allow the preliminary objection they filed on March 5.
Their lawyer, Mr. Patrick Ikwueto, SAN, argued that a consent judgment could be set aside if it turned out that it was made by a court without jurisdiction or that it was obtained by fraud.
In their verdict Monday, May 7, the appellate court panel held that the trial court was in order by setting aside the consent judgment it delivered on December, 13, 2017.
Justice Frederick Oho who delivered the lead judgment, described the consent verification as a nullity, saying though the lower court could not sit on appeal over its own case, it could set aside a judgment that was obtained from it by fraud.
The court further described events surrounding the consent judgment of the Federal High Court as sacrilegious.
Justice Oho maintained that the attitude of the appellant amounted to a clear disobedience to orders of the Court of Appeal, stressing that his counsel was duty bound to have furnished the lower court with relevant facts in the case, including the three judgments by the Court of Appeal.