The Supreme Court yesterday struck out the appeal filed by the presidential candidate of Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Chief Ambrose Owuru, seeking the nullification of President Muhammadu Buhari’s election in the February 23 election. The appeal was thrown out on the ground that Owuru and HDP engaged in gross abuse of court processes by filing two notices of appeal in one matter, contrary to provisions of the law. With the ruling, the final nail has been hammered into the coffin of the matter.
They had challenged the decision of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which on August 22 dismissed their petition for want of competence. But the apex court struck out the appeal for lacking in merit and constituting an abuse of court process.
It held that failure of the appellants to appeal the August 22 ruling, which had struck out their petition for incompetence, was fatal to their appeal. In a unanimous decision read by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, the five-man jury upheld the objection raised by the three respondents in the suit and subsequently dismissed the appeal.
The respondents include Buhari, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Justice Odili upheld the argument of Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), that the two appellants embarked on a journey to misdirect the court by filing two notices of appeal and simultaneously using the two to formulate grounds of appeal.
The court also agreed with Fagbemi that in view of the preliminary objections of the three respondents, HDP’s appeal had nothing to stand upon. Earlier when the matter was called, counsel to Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN); Yunus Usman (SAN) representing INEC and Fagbemi representing APC had in separate preliminary objections asked the apex court to strike out the appeal on the ground that the appellants contravened the law by filing two notices of appeal in one matter.
However, counsel to the appellants, Isaac Udoka, made spirited efforts to convince the apex court on why the two notices of appeal were filed in respect of one matter. Udoka submitted that the appellants were forced to do so because the tribunal did not release a clean copy of its August 22 judgement on time while the time to file a notice of appeal was running out.
He urged the court to use its discretion to consider the second notice of appeal as a continuation of the first. The appellants also urged the apex court to declare them winners of an alleged referendum of February 16 by Nigerians, which they claimed to have won with over 50 million votes.