SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT IS PRESCRIPTION FOR PROTRACTED LITIGATION OVER CROSS RIVER NORTH SENATORIAL SEAT
Opinion By Chief Cyril A. Asuquo
So many interpretations have been given to the Thursday, February 25th, 2021, judgement of the Supreme Court of Nigeria concerning the candidacy of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and by implication winner of the October 31st, 2020 senatorial bye-election for the Cross River North Senatorial District.
One of such interpretation is the one widely credited to the former Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Hon. John-Gaul Lebo, quoted as follows: "There was no need for the supreme Court to make any consequential order because the notice of appeal was struck out, and therefore the appeal wasn't even heard, therefore the subsisting judgement of appeal court remain Valid."
Deriving from the above explanation, it appears that the notion held by most of the commentators regarding the spilt decision is that the Appeal Court judgement on the matter subsists. Worthy of note is that the Supreme Court didn't attend to the merits or demerits of the appeal because it lacked jurisdiction to entertain a matter that was not even before it due to what the court ascribed to defective service.
Therefore, in striking out the case without consequential orders, it implies that from the apex court, there was no binding decision on the litigants, excepting that they would have to go back and rely on the subsisting November 4, judgement of the Appeal Court which tend to favour the 1st Defendant, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, because the 2nd defendant, INEC was in a nutshell ordered to accord him all privileges due as the PDP candidate for the senatorial bye-election.
The fact that the Supreme Court didn't make any consequential order seem to have rendered the judgement of the Appeal Court more powerless because the Senator representing the Northern Senatorial District, Dr. Stephen Odey, and the PDP, the party on whose platform he won the bye-election, were not party to the suit right from the Abuja High Court, which was the trial court.
From my layman's knowledge of the law, I think the Appeal Court judgement isn't binding on Odey and the PDP, even more so for the senator whose name was not even mentioned at the High Court and the Appeal Court as party in the matter.
Moreover, the judgement of the Appeal Court didn't give any consequential order that Odey's Certificate-of-Return should be withdrawn by INEC. Since Odey's certificate has not been withdrawn by the INEC because it was not so ordered by the Appeal Court, does it mean that the Senate President will swear in Jarigbe as senator when Odey's certificate is still valid?
Can the Senate President unilaterally withdraw Odey's certificate and swear in Jarigbe without running fowl of the law since there is no valid court order withdrawing Odey's certificate or ordering the to do so ?
Well, let's wait and see. As things stand at the moment, it appears either of the parties in the entire judicial drama will return to the court for proper interpretation of the implications of the Appeal Court judgement for which Odey and the PDP were not parties to.
One wouldn't be surprised if Odey and the PDP head to court to stop the Senate from entertaining the Appeal Court judgement because their interest could be affected adversely over a matter they were not a party to.
They may want to tie the hands of the Senate up until any possible fresh rounds of litigation of the issues are dealt with up to the Supreme Court.
The issues at stake may become a subject of protracted litigation, while the partisan constituents and supporters wait for Godot.
My humble opinion.
Chief Cyril A. Asuquo,
Is a PDP Member Calabar South LGA