The Court of Appeal in Abuja has voided the April 11, 2019 judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which sacked Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, who represents Anambra South Senatorial District.
A three-man panel, led by Justice Stephen Adah, unanimously held that the judgement delivered by Justice Bello Kawu was a nullity.
The appellate court said it was because the originating process was incompetent having not been signed by a lawyer as required.
It added that the judgment was given without jurisdiction, and that Ubah was denied a fair hearing.
Justice Adah, in the lead judgment, which the two other members of the panel agreed with, held that since the cause of action arose in Anambra State, the FCT High Court lacked the requisite territorial jurisdiction to have entertained the case.
He added that, from the record of proceedings before the FCT High Court, there was no evidence that Ubah was served with the processes.
Justice Adah also found that the originating summons, with which the case was commenced before the FCT High Court, was not signed by any lawyer as required by the court’s rules.
Besides setting aside the judgment, Justice Adah granted a perpetual injunction restraining the Clerk of the Senate and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from acting on the April 11, 2019 judgment.
In an earlier ruling on a motion by Ubah, Justice Adah agreed that the failure to sign the originating summons was fatal to the case as well as the judgment which arose from it.
He held that for the court process to command legitimacy, it must be duly signed, adding that the rule of court makes signing mandatory.
“An incompetent originating process cannot activate the jurisdiction of the court. Therefore, in the instant case, the court processes are defective and incurably bad.
“The law is clear and unambiguous that the originating process must be signed. This is fundamental that validity of originating summon must not be in dispute.
“Any originating summons not signed by a counsel who issued it out is worthless and incompetent,” the Justice said.
In upholding the main appeal, Justice Adah held that the judgment and the entire process, having been found incompetent, cannot be affected by Section 285, which makes a case invalid if not filed within 14 days.
He further held that there was no evidence that Senator Ubah was given a fair hearing.
Justice Adah also held that the High Court of the FCT ought not to have dabbled into the case since the cause of litigation arose outside its jurisdiction.
He ordered the first snd second respondents to each pay Ubah N250,000 as cost.
INEC declared Ubah, who represents Anambra South Senatorial District at the upper legislative Chambers, winner of the February 23, 2019, Anambra South Senatorial election.
He was sworn in as a Senator of the Ninth Assembly last year.
His election was also upheld by the Anambra State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal.
But, in a judgement on April 11, 2019, in a pre-election suit filed by Anani Chuka, Justice Kawu nullified Ubah’s election on the premise that he allegedly used a forged National Examination Council (NECO) certificate to contest the election.
Justice Kawu, on January 17, also refused Ubah’s application to set aside his sack order because the application lacked merit.
The court, after sacking Ubah, ordered INEC to withdraw his certificate of return and re-issue it to Dr Obinna Uzoh of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who came second at the election.
Dissatisfied with the decision, Ubah approached the Court of Appeal, insisting there was a grave miscarriage of justice against him.
Anani Chuka, Young Progressive Party (YPP), INEC and Dr Obinna Uzoh are the respondents.
Source: The Nation