13th December, 2010
Seven months after an appellate court sitting in Abuja upheld a decision of aÂ Federal High Court sacking the erstwhile Speaker of the Delta state House ofÂ Assembly, Mr. Martin Okonta, who was representing the Ika South constituency at theÂ House of Assembly, the Supreme Court on Monday set aside that judgment which sackedÂ the legislator from office.
The judgment followed an appeal filled at the apex court by Mr. Okonta where heÂ claimed that the Federal High Court entered a judgment against him when he was not aÂ party in the suit instituted by his challenger, Mr. Kinsley Monye Phillips. He toldÂ the court that he was denied his constitutional right to be heard by the trial courtÂ which ought to have directed that he, whose election was being contested, ought toÂ have been made a party in the suit.
In the unanimous judgment read by Justice Adekeye, the 5 man panel of the apex courtÂ held that a court can only be competent to entertain a suit when all necessaryÂ parties are properly before it. They held that the suit as instituted by Mr.Â Phillips challenging his substitution by the Peoples Democratic Party before theÂ 2007 general election ought no to have been determined without the presence of Mr.Â Okonta who participated in the election and was returned winner by the IndependentÂ National Election Commission.
While setting aside the decision which ousted the former Speaker from the DeltaÂ state House of Assembly, the court awarded a cost of Fifty Thousand Naira and ThirtyÂ Thousand Naira respectively against Mr. Kingsley Monye Phillips and the electoralÂ body in favour of Mr. Martin Okonta.
It is however doubtful if the former Speaker while resume as Speaker of the House ofÂ Assembly when he returns to the House as the House now has a serving Speaker.
â€”Nnamdi Felix / Abuja