The Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu on Monday nullified the judgement of a High Court which sacked the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Victor Umeh and the entire members of the National Working Committee of the party were sacked by the court five months ago. Sequel to the sack, Maxi Ukwu was appointed as acting National Chairman and later elected as substantive Chairman.
At the Court of Appeal, Wole Olanipekun, the appellant’s counsel had urged the special panel which comprised of Justices Paul Galinje (Chairman), Kwasami F.A. and Tom Yakubu, to set aside the judgment of the lower court. The Senior Advocate based his argument on the premise that the respondent, Jude Okuli, who filed the suit that led to Umeh’s removal, had no locus to do so
Olanipekun pointed out that the respondent was expelled from APGA before he filed the suit in the lower court. He also told the court that Jude Okuli did not ask for reinstatement before the trial judge at the lower court reinstated him.
Olanipekun also pointed out that the lower court delivered a contradictory judgment, and the fact that APGA was not joined as a party could be fatal to the case and has rendered the matter incompetent.
In Olanipekun’s view, the trial judge made himself a plaintiff counsel by extending Okuli’s case and posing questions himself and answering in favour of the respondent.
He argued that even when the judge found out that the parties in the matter sharply disagreed over affidavit evidence, he did not call for oral evidence as required by the court, rather, he went on to deliver judgment.
The appellant’s counsel also told the appellate court that the lower court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter since it bordered on the internal affairs of a political party.
Onyechi Ikpeazu who represented the respondent had however argued that the case could not be defeated by reason of non-joinder of APGA, for the main reason that the complaint was directed to Mr Umeh, personally based on his arbitrary conduct.
Ikpeazu had urged the court to note that it was not an APGA matter but a grouse between individuals within the party, arguing that the appellant did not make the issue of locus standi the main grouse in the appeal.
On the jurisdiction matter raised by the appellant, Ikpeazu argued that the law was clear that where a party or a member of the party violated the constitution of the party, the court would have jurisdiction. He went on to argue that where the allegation was for the court to interpret a provision of the constitution with a view to determine that a particular party had principle that exceeded its rights, it was a matter in which the court had jurisdiction.