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INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION & ANOR v. EJIKE OGUEBEGO & ORS

(2017) LPELR-42609(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Wednesday, the 12th day of July, 2017

SC.116/2017


Before Their Lordships

WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

CLARA BATA OGUNBIYI Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

KUMAI BAYANG AKA'AHS Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE-EKUN Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

1. INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC)
2. PROFESSOR MAHMOOD YAKUBU - Appellant(s)

AND

1. EJIKE OGUEBEGO
(CHAIRMAN, PDP ANAMBRA STATE)
2. HON. CHUKS OKOYE
(LEGAL ADVICER, PDP, ANAMBRA STATE CHAPTER SUING FOR THEMSELVES AND ON BEHALF OF THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE STATE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE PDP IN ANAMBRA STATE)
3. CHUKWUDI OKASIA - Respondent(s)


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
The appeal borders on contempt proceedings.

FACTS:
The events that prompted the proceedings culminating to the instant appeal trace their roots to injunctive orders of the Federal High Court. The Court of Appeal, upon an appeal against the orders of the Federal High Court, favoured the appellants in the present appeal with an order setting aside the Federal High Court's orders, hence the appeal to the Supreme Court.

The appeal yielded the Court's order of January 29, 2016 framed thus:
"Having resolved all the issues in favour of the appellants, I hold that there is merit in this appeal which is allowed. The judgment of the Court of Appeal is hereby set aside. The order of the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/213/2013 (now, Suit No. FHC/AW/CS/247/2013) recognising the Ejike Oguebego-led Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, Anambra State Chapter, is still subsisting until it is set aside by an order of the Court..."

The judgment triggered off a concatenation of efforts, on the part of the first and second respondents, that is, Ejike Oguebego and Hon Chuks Okoye, aimed at the actualisation of what they perceived as the import of the above orders of this Court. First, counsel, on their behalf, entreated the appellants to favour them with the certificates of Return of elections of April, 2015. That was not all. They demanded the retrieval of the Certificate of Return from PDP legislators elected from Anambra State, that is, State and National Assembly. The appellants, in consequence, repaired to the Supreme Court for the clarification of its decision and the ambit of its above order. Although the Court disclaimed the invitation, it nonetheless illuminated its reasoning.

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court's rare and extra-ordinary indulgence, as demonstrated in its latter judgment, delimiting the scope of its earlier judgment, the first and second respondents continued to importune the appellants to recognise their candidates and to strip the members currently in the legislative Houses of their positions, hence, the resort to the issuance of Forms 48 and 49 of the Judgment (Enforcement) Rules - the proximate impulsion to the order of the Federal High Court compelling the attendance of the appellants in Court, an order affirmed by the Court of Appeal an affirmation that yielded the present appeal.

The appellants herein swiftly responded to the said Forms 48 and 49. They objected to the competence of the issuance and service of the said Forms 48 and 49. In other words, what was before the Federal High Court on June 14, 2016, was the objection to the competence of the issuance and service of the said Forms. Expectedly, the respondents joined issues with the appellants. The learned trial Judge mistaking the date, June 14, 2016, as the date for the respondents to show cause why they should not be committed for contempt, allowed the oral application to compel the attendance of the respondents in Court. The Federal High Court held that the alleged contemnors/respondents in the proceeding are under obligation to personally appear before the Court.

On appeal to the Court of Appeal, the Court agreed with the Federal High Court on the ground that the presence of the appellants at trial was the usual practice.  Hence this present appeal.



ISSUES:
The Court noted that the issue for determination, is the simple question:
"Whether, in an application of this nature, the applicants must be present in Court to take their application?"
DECISION/HELD:
In the final analysis, the Court entered an order setting aside the order of the Court of Appeal which affirmed the order of the trial Court. The Court held that the trial Court has to dispose of the pending applications first before returning to Form 49. The appeal was allowed.


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