The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt will on Friday rule on whether or not it is proper for the President of the Court of Appeal to constitute another panel to examine the merit and substance of the case brought by Awara Biokpomabo Festus and the African Action Congress (AAC), against the election of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa had and in conformity with the Court of Appeal decision in Appeal No: APPEAL NO: CA/PH/376/2019 recently halted the erstwhile panel from continuing with the matter.
The directive was preceded by the displeasure expressed by the Appeal Court against the erstwhile Tribunal’s decision in refusing to entertain the petition as filed by a party in the case, and its dismissal of the petition which is purported to have been withdrawn by a faction of the party.
Some party chieftains believe the former panel had been compromised.
The AAC had suddenly ran into leadership crisis after the elections, wherein another Chairman, Mr Leonard Ezenwa was said to have been named (not elected).
The said new chairman had purportedly, without consultation with the NEC of the AAC, hired another lawyer, Mr Henry Bello, to represent the party in court.
Mr Bello was the same lawyer that represented a faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, led by Senator Magnus Abe.
Until the sudden emergence of Mr Bello as the AAC controversial lawyer, the party and its governorship candidate, Biokpamabo Awara, was represented by Tawo Tawo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Following the dispute in the party leading to the purported suspension of its presidential candidate, Mr Omoyele Sowore, Ezenwa emerged as the acting Chairman of the party.
Ezenwa then posed like a party in the case and directed the lawyer to frustrate the petition from proceeding which included an attempt to voluntarily withdraw the case from the election petition tribunal.
The Tribunal now dismissed the AAC petition to the tribunal, describing it as “abandoned”, even as the law prescribes that any objection to pre-hearing matters, has to be addressed after the substantial issues have been dealt with.
However, the action was protested by Awara Biokpomabo Festus and the rest of the Executives of AAC, leading to the filing of the Appeal, as the party chieftains believed that the said division within the rank of the party was manipulated and orchestrated by political interest group.
The Appeal Court therefore recently directed that in deference to the petition filed by the AAC, another panel be set up to review the substance of the case.
But H. A Bello Esq. had rushed to another Federal high court sitting in Port Harcourt to obtain an order stopping the setting up of another panel.
Although the order was not granted by the Judge, the court reserved ruling on the propriety or otherwise of setting up the election panel to re-examine the issues in the suit.
One of the issues the AAC wants the court to decide is the double age declaration of the Rivers State governor, which has been certified by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It was gathered that Gov Wike had declared a different age while he was chairman of Obi Akpor Local Government Area, from that which he declared when he became a governor.