The top opposition party Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria suffered double setbacks at the Court of Appeal; Calabar Division on Friday, in Election Petition related appeals.
The party had in May 2019 lodged two separate appeals at the Court of Appeal, Calabar challenging the rulings of the National/State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Calabar.
The Tribunal had dismissed the respective applications by the PDP and its candidates for the Central Senatorial District, Ntufam Dr. Sandy Onor and Boki 1, Dr. Mrs. Itam Abang challenging the competence of the Tribunal to hear the Petitions brought before it by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba and Barr. Sabastine Anyia of the APC.
The respondents/appellants had based their grievance on the grounds that the petitioners/appellant (respondents in the Court of Appeal) filed their application for issuance of Pre-Hearing Notice for their petitions prematurely.
Both appeals, which were initially slated for hearing on 16th July, 2019 were adjourned to 18th July 2019 because the appellants could not satisfy the Court that the Notice of Appeal had been properly served on the Respondents.
When the First Appeal (No. CA/C/NAEA/234/2019 between Ntufam Dr. Sandy Ojang Onor & Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba CON SAN & 3 Ors) was called, the Honourable Justices of the Court of Appeal realized from the printed records of the Court and from the date the Tribunal’s ruling was delivered that the mandatory time frame stipulated by law for the filing and hearing of such appeals had lapsed.
Counsel to the appellants, Attah Ochinke Esq. was left with no other option than to withdraw the Appeal which was accordingly dismissed.
Similarly, the second appeal between Hon. Dr. Virginia Itam Abang & Barr. Sabastine Ubua Anyia & 3 Ors in Appeal No: CA/C/NAEA/233/2019 was mentioned for hearing. Both counsels for the appellants and respondents argued the appeal accordingly and same was adjourned till 2pm of the same 18th July 2019 for judgment.
In its judgment, the Court of Appeal presided over by Honourable Justice Owoade, dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit on the grounds that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended), the Electoral Act (as Amended) and indeed the Rules of Procedure of the Election Petition Tribunal do not punish a Petitioner for being overzealous in applying for Pre-Hearing Notice on time but is only set out to punish indolent Petitioners who abandon their Petitions by not applying within the time
After the judgment, the lead counsel for the Respondents, E.O.E Ekong Esq. thanked the Court for re-establishing and expanding the position of the Law and doing substantial justice to the Respondents who are Petitioners in the Lower Tribunal.