A special panel of the Court of Appeal, on Monday granted the application by Senator Victor Umeh and his All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) political platform to participate in appeal lodged by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Obiora Okonkwo seeking the court to restore him as Senator representing the Senatorial District of Anambra state.
The court granted the application after it was not opposed to counselling to Okonkwo, the PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Mrs Uche Ekwunife.
Okonkwo in the said appeal filed by his team of lawyers, led by Sabastine Hon (SAN) wants the appellate court to restore the consent judgment of the Federal High Court delivered on December 13, 2017, which ordered IN to issue him a certificate of return as Senator representing the Senatorial District of Anambra state.
Meanwhile, Senator Umeh and his political party who were joined as 5th and 6th respondents in the appeal were given seven days within which to file and exchange their processes pertaining to the appeal.
In the notice of appeal, hinged on 13 grounds, Okonkwo further prayed the Court of Appeal to set aside January 12, 2018, ruling of Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court which vacated the said consent judgment of December 13, 2017.
He also asked the appellate court for an order directing INEC to immediately comply with the consent judgment of Justice Tsoho delivered on December 13, 2017, by issuing him with a Certificate of Return as the winner of the disputed senatorial seat.
In addition, the appellant is seeking an order of the Court of Appeal to the effect that the consent judgment entered into by Justice Tsoho on December 13, 2017, in suit No; FHC/ABJ/CS/1092/2014, ranks superior to any post-election decision, notwithstanding the hierarchy of court established by section 287 and other relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution.
He further prayed for an order that in spite of the hierarchy of the courts established by section 287 and other relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution, a pre-election suit and decisions ranks/superior to a post-election decision.
The five-man special panel headed by Justice M.L. Garba had at its inaugural sitting set down the appeal for hearing after sorting out the preliminary issues.
Other members of the special panel who are drawn from the various divisions of the court to hear the pre-election matter also include Justices M.A. Danjuma; T.O. Awotoye; M.L. Shuaibu and F.O. Oho.
However, when the appeal came up for hearing yesterday, Senator Umeh and his party (APGA) in a motion on notice filed by his counsel, Patrick Ikwueto (SAN) asked the court to join them in the proceedings as interested parties to the subject matter.
The motion dated and filed on February 23, 2018, was brought pursuant to sections 6(6)(a) and 36(1) of the 1999 constitution and section 15 of the Court of Appeal, seeking for an order joining Umeh and APGA as co-respondents (5th and 6th) in the appeal.
In the application which is rooted on 12 grounds, Umeh is contending that having been declared and sworn-in as the Senator currently representing Anambra Central Senatorial District after the delivery of the judgment of Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, he and his party have sufficient interest to be joined as co-respondent.
That the appeal cannot be completely and effectually determined in their absence as any decision given in the appeal, including “to order the appellant to take the seat of the APGA candidate” as sought by the appellant, will affect the legal rights and interest of the applicants.
He further argued that by the right to fair hearing entrenched in the 1999 constitution, they are entitled to be heard in the appeal so as to defend their legal rights and interests.
In a 20-paragraph affidavit deposed to Senator Umeh, he averred that he contested and won the election as the Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial district under the platform of APGA.
He said the instant appeal seeking to restore the order for the appellant to be declared the winner of the Anambra Central Senatorial election and be sworn in “to take the seat of the APGA candidate”, is a gross abuse of process.
The appeal has been adjourned to March 14, 2018, for hearing.