By CrossRiverWatch admin
The Cross River State Election Petition Tribunal yesterday dismissed all the cases it had at its disposal calling them “mere academic exercise” giving victory to all the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidates in the tribunal.
The cases were between Dr Alex Egobona of Labor Party (LP) and Mr. Bassey Ewa of PDP, Mr. Tawo Afu of LP and Agibe Ngoro of PDP, Mr Dominic Aqua Edem of LP and Apostle Essien Ayi of PDP, Dr Julius Okputu of LP and Dr. Rose Oko of PDP.
The tribunal had on October 6, re-composed with Justice O. A. Adeniyi former member now taking over from Justice Christopher Awubra as the new Chairman following the application from Mr. Paul Erokoro SAN, Counsel to Senator Gershom Bassey, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the election petition by Senator Bassey Otu of the Labor Party (LP) challenging the election of Senator Bassey of the PDP as the winner of the March 28, 2014 Cross River South Senatorial election.
Erokoro had in his motion averred that the tribunal Chairman was not competent to sit as Chairman of the tribunal as “schedule 6 of the Nigerian constitution says Chairman of the Tribunal should be a sitting high court judge but Justice Christopher Awubra is a member of a Customary court Appeal in Taraba state”.
Delivering an almost two hour unanimous judgement on jurisdiction in the case of Senator Otu and Senator Bassey in a jam packed court room amidst tight security, Justice Adeniyi said, Awubra ”not being a judge of a High Court the proceedings of the tribunal from inception up to October 6 should be set aside.
He said the issue of jurisdiction can be raised at any time of a case even in the appeal court as issues of law is not based on sentiments or sympathy as they are not relevant in law.
Adeniyi said the application on jurisdiction by Erokoro was filed exactly eight days to the expiration of the life span of the tribunal “jurisdiction is the power of the court to hear the matter. It is the spinal cord or lifeline of any adjudication. Adjudication is what oxygen is to mammal. Any defect to adjudication of a court no matter how infinitesimal…whatever is done will amount to nullity”.
Citing some authorities, he said “Jurisdiction is the blood that gives life to the survival of an action in a court of law and without jurisdiction the action will be like an animal that has been drained of its blood and it will seize to have life any attempt to resuscitate it without infusing blood in it will be an abortive exercise.
“It is the constitution that gives power to the status of a court and the beginning and end of the legal system or the alpha and omega which all statutes are measured and in line with this standing all arms of government are tied to the constitution”.
He submitted that a court is competent when it is properly constituted but in this case the issue of qualification of Justice Awubra as Chairman was not in order as the constitution does not provide that a Customary Court of Appeal judge is qualified to seat as chairman and “given present circumstance the tribunal was not properly composed from its inception to October 6”.
In view of this, he said, “it will be unjustifiable, amphibious affront to the authority and supremacy of the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria which we have taken oath to uphold and not otherwise.
“Since Justice Awubra was incompetent to sit as Chairman and it is obvious that any decision by any court reached without jurisdiction is void ab-initio and of no effect. In order words, the totality of the proceedings of this tribunal as previously constituted under the Chairmanship of Justice Awubra are unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever and they liable to be set aside and so be it”.
He said, “that all issues, pre hearings, hearings and proceedings conducted before this tribunal presided over by Justice Awubra as chairman shall be and is hereby set aside”.
He argued that “when the court has no jurisdiction, cases involved will crash or crumble” , saying and it is painful decision to take without having their matter decided on its merit and “having set aside the proceedings of the tribunal as presided over by Justice Awubra, ordinarily there ought to be nothing more to decide or go any further, however in view of the peculiar nature of this case (and other cases), and in the jurisdiction in case we are held to be wrong, we proceeded to decide the merit of this petition if only for its academic record”.
Accordingly, the tribunal went ahead to deliver judgment in all the five matters and the PDP won.
Counsels to Senator Bassey and the PDP, Mr Nta Akpan Nta and Effefiom Ekong thanked the tribunal for the “sound judgement” while counsel to Senator Otu, Andrew just took a bow and left the court.
But one of the counsels to Otu, Mr Emma Eyo insisted that they will appeal all the cases.
Culled from The Nation
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