By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, yesterday, voided the High Court judgment that sacked Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Peoples Party, YPP, as the lawmaker representing Anambra South senatorial district. An appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel of justices led by Justice Stephen Adah, held that the April 11, 2019 judgment of the Abuja High Court that removed Ubah from the Senate was based on incompetent court processes.
Noting that the originating summon was not duly signed by any legal practitioner as required by law, the appellate court said the High Court Rules made it mandatory that such legal document must be signed. “Validity of an Originating Process is a sine qua non,” the appellate court held, saying: “A document that is not signed is a worthless piece of paper that lacks integrity.” Justice Adah, who read the lead judgment, said the high court acted wrongly when it dismissed a motion Ubah filed to draw its attention to anomalies in the processes and the fact he was not served with a copy of the suit that led to his removal from the Senate.
He said the high court had the powers to set-aside any of its order or judgment that is a nullity. “The lower court, which gave a void decision, was not functus-officio to set-aside its order that is a nullity,” Justice Adah added. He said Ubah’s suit was not caught up by Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, which made it mandatory that an appeal must be lodged within 14 days after judgment was delivered.
Besides, the appellate court said it found no evidence that Ubah was served with any hearing notice before the trial court delivered judgment against him. “Any breach of the right of the Appellant, vitiated the entire proceeding. The right of fair-hearing is very fundamental and very sacrosanct. Once it is breached in a proceeding, every order therefrom amounts to nullity.” More so, the Court of Appeal held that the Abuja High Court lacked the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the suit that bordered on an election that was conducted in Anambra State. “The lower court clearly had no jurisdiction to entertain that matter. Its decision in the case, therefore, amounted to a nullity and must not be allowed to stand. “The decision being a nullity, the appellant has right to appeal against it.
The appeal of the appellant is hereby allowed.” Aside vacating the judgment of the High Court, the Appeal Court issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Clerk of the National Assembly from giving any effect to it. The appellate court further awarded cost of N250,000 each against the plaintiff that filed the suit at the lower court, Mr. Anani Chuka and the senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Obinna Uzoh, who was a beneficiary of the judgment.