Akunyili vs.Ngige: Tribunal strikes out suit


The Election Petitions Tribunal in Awka has struck out the petition filed by Professor Dora Akunyili of APGA against the election of Dr. Chris Ngige of ACN for lack of jurisdiction.

Akunyili’s petition, filed on May 17, 2011, was challenging the result of the April 2011 poll in which Ngige was declared winner of Anambra Central senatorial seat.

Tuesday’s decision of the tribunal was sequel to the February 14 and February 17 judgments of the Supreme Court on the issue of 180 days within which election petitions could be heard.

When the matter was called up, counsel to Ngige, Mr. Emeka Ngige (SAN), urged the court to strike out the case in line with the Supreme Court decision.

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that 180 days for the hearing and determination of petition under the 1999 Constitution cannot be extended even where it is remitted for retrial.

“This brings to fore the provision of the 1999 Constitution which states that the decision of the Supreme Court shall be enforced by all authorities as well as courts with subordinate jurisdiction.

“We will not encourage this court to run foul of that decision,” he said.

While associating himself with the submissions of Ngige, counsel to INEC, Mr. Ositadinma Nnadi (SAN), opined that “where a court lacked jurisdiction, the proper order will be to strike out such petition”.

Nnadi urged the tribunal to “do the needful as a debt owed to justice”.

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However, counsel to Akunyili, Mr. Obiora Obianwu (SAN), opposed the application, noting that the decision of the Supreme Court did not apply in the present case.

Obianwu recalled that the tribunal and the Court of Appeal, Enugu, had earlier dismissed a similar application on 180 days, saying that the 1999 Constitution made such decisions final.

“The matter did not go on appeal to Supreme Court. The decision of the Supreme Court does not apply also because it came subsequent to the final decision of the Court of Appeal in exercise of its constitutional powers.

“This case must be dealt with on its own peculiarity. At best, the decision of the tribunal and the Appeal Court can be said to have been reached per incuriam,” he argued.

In its ruling, however, the tribunal, led by Justice Onajite Kuejubola, held that the issue of 180 days had finally been laid to rest by the recent decision of the Supreme Court.

“We have taken a careful study of the Supreme Court’s decision and there is no doubt that it had been finally settled. The judgment is clear and we are duty bound to hold in that direction,”

It further held that previous proceedings from the date the petition was returned from the Appeal Court was a nullity, noting that other pending petitions before it were also affected.

It could be recalled that the petitioner had concluded her case while Ngige was to open his before the Supreme Court’s judgment.

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