The Supreme Court has nullified the congress held by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State.

The verdict of the highest court in the land is coming days after the deadline for parties to submit names of candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had elapsed.

This implies that the APC may not field candidates for the 2019 polls in the state, as the local government and ward congresses held by the party in May are null and void going by the apex court judgement.

Delivering judgement in an appeal filed by one Abdulahi Umar, Justice Centus Chima Nweze  held that the Court of Appeal ought not to have vacated the injunctive order issued against the APC by the Rivers State High Court on the conduct of the congresses.

Justice A. C. Nwosu of the Rivers State High Court had, in an ex parte motion filed by Umar, restrained the APC from conducting the congresses pending the determination of the suit instituted by Umar, complaining against his marginalization and 22 others in the said congresses.

But while the injunctive order of the High Court was subsisting, the APC went ahead and conducted the ward, local government and state congresses on May 19, 20 and 21.

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After the conduct of the congresses, the Court of Appeal, in a ruling on an application by APC seeking stay of execution of the High Court injunction order and stay of proceedings of the main suit, vacated the injunction order and refused to stay hearing of the substantive matter, prompting Umar to complain to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, in the judgement, lambasted the Appeal Court for judicially indulging APC and vacating the injunction order in the party’s favour when there is abundant evidence that the APC was in contempt of court.

The apex court further held that the Court of Appeal ought not to have granted its discretion in favour of APC because the party was in grave violation of the order of the High Court.

Justice Nweze said that the Appeal Court has a duty to protect a lawful subsisting order and ought not to have granted favourable judicial discretion for a party that willingly disobeyed valid court order.

His words: “It is unfortunate and wrongful for the Court of Appeal to have entertained a party in contempt of a valid court order to the extent of granting judicial favour by way of staying of execution of an injunctive order when the party at the centre of the dispute was in gross contempt of court.

“It is a serious matter for anyone to flout a court order and in the instant case, it is clear that the respondent (APC) was in grave disobedience to two lawful court orders.

“It is sacrilegious, ill-fated and suicide mission for the Court of Appeal to have departed from various decisions of the Supreme Court that any party in contempt of court ought not to be granted judicial discretion and in this matter Appeal Court is bound to follow Supreme Court’s final decision.”

He added that the refusal of the Court of Appeal to be bound by the final decision of Supreme Court is a gross insubordination.

The apex court, therefore, nullified and set aside the decision of the Appeal Court delivered on June 21, 2018.

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