Francis Agbo versus Aida Ogwuche: Supreme Court urged to use this matter to redeem waning image:- HURIWA

The Supreme Court of Nigeria is definitely swimming in steaming hot troubled waters following a series of controversial decisions emanating from the apex judicial forum.

But one rare opportunity now exists for this much criticised apex court to redeem her tarnished public image and even global opprobrium attracted to this judicial institution by some of the jurists in recent times through ridiculous and unjust verdicts and laughable orders. The case on People’s Democratic Party’s primary for the candidate for the 2023 House of Representatives slot for Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadido Federal Constituency is the litmus test.

The Supreme Court on Thursday in Abuja fixed February 22 for final judgment in a legal battle by a staff of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Mrs Aida Nath Ogwuche, for a House of Representatives ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in a Benue Federal Constituency.

The apex court fixed the verdict date after taking arguments for and against the long-drawn legal action kick-started at a Federal High Court in Makurdi, the capital of Benue State.

Represented by a legal luminary, Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, the FIRS staff pleaded with the Supreme Court to return her as PDP’s candidate for Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency of Benue State.

Awomolo urged the court to give proper interpretation to Section 66 (I) (f) of the 1999 Constitution as it relates to elections being conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Her opponent in the legal battle, Hon Francis Ottah Agbo, in his submission, asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal for want of merit.

Represented by a former Attorney General of the Federation AGF, Kanu Agabi SAN, Agbo insisted that Mrs Ogwuche violated the law by refusing to resign from FIRS at the time she stood for the primary election.

Justice John Okoro, who presided over the proceedings after taking arguments, announced that the final judgment would be delivered on February 22.

The Court of Appeal in Abuja had on January 13 this year voided the nomination of Aida Nath Ogwuche as the House of Representatives candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In her place, the Court declared Hon Francis Ottah Agbo as the validly nominated candidate of the party in the Constituency.

The appellate court held that Mrs Ogwuche, who was declared winner of the PDP primaries by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was still a staff member of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) at the time of the election.

Agbo, who is the current member representing the Federal Constituency and Chairman of the House Committee on Narcotics and Drugs, came second in the disputed primary election in May 2022.

Having found that Mrs Ogwuche did not resign from her appointment with FIRS, the Court of Appeal ordered INEC to immediately withdraw the certificate of return issued to her and re-issue same to Agbo as the validly nominated candidate of the party for the Federal seat.

The Court held that Mrs Ogwuche ought to have resigned her employment from the service before contesting in the primary election of the PDP.

The decision of the Federal High Court recognising the participation and election of Mrs Ogwuche in the primary election was declared illegal and unlawful..

The panel relied on Section 66 (I) (f) of the 1999 Constitution to declare Ogwuche’s election as unlawful and invalid.

The Federal High Court in Makurdi had, on November 11, 2022, declared Mrs Ogwuche as the duly elected candidate of the PDP for the Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency.

There is no doubt that millions of Nigerians are worried that even the High Courts of States disobeyed the order of the Supreme Court on the validity of the old naira notes beyond February 10th. The Supreme Court’s order has also been flouted by President Muhammadu Buhari who made a broadcast seemingly over ruling the Supreme Court’s order which ought to operate until February 22nd 2023 when the substantive suit on the new naira notes between some states versus Attorney General of the Federation was fix for determination.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Professor Paul Ananaba, explained that the decision of the Supreme Court to maintain that the old naira notes are still valid within Nigeria is in order, however, he revealed that where the problem could be found is in the enforcement of the Supreme Court order.

Ananaba explained that in Nigerian courts today, people cannot even file a case in the courts with the old notes because the courts are no longer accepting the old notes for any form of payment. He explained that for a court order to work out in a society, it has to be in line with the psyche of such society.

He went on to disclose that many agencies of government are not taking the old notes the same way a lot of people in the society are not taking the old notes anymore. Ananaba said that the enforcement of any law or court order is the key in any society and not necessarily the law itself.

Recall that the Honourable Member representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency of Benue State, The Hon. (Dr.) Francis Ottah Agbo, has advised the sacked candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for House of Representatives for Ado/Okpokwu/ Ogbadibo Federal Constituency, Benue State, Barr. Aida Nath Ogwuche, to stop misleading Nigerians with media propaganda and blackmail over the recent judgement of the Court of Appeal which sacked and replaced her with Dr. Ottah Agbo.

The Feed Back Lawmaker who doubles as Chairman Narcotic Drugs Committee and Spokesman of the Minority Caucus in the House, has also cautioned Barr. Aida Ogwuche to stop parading herself as the PDP candidate for the Federal Constituency otherwise known as Enone, as doing so would amount to contempt of the Court of Appeal where a 3 Man Panel of Justices of great repute sat and delivered a unanimous verdict which judiciary analysts say has done substantive and substantial justice to the question of who the authentic Enone PDP candidate is.

Recall that the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal, had on Thursday, 12th January, 2023, in a unanimous judgement delivered by a 3-Man Panel, invalidated the nomination of Barr. Aida Ogwuche as the PDP candidate for Enone House of Representatives and ordered that a fresh Certificate of Return be issued Dr. Ottah Agbo, who came second at the May 23rd, 2022 PDP’s Primary Election, as the duly nominated candidate of the party!

Citing copiously, section 66(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the Electoral Act 2022 as amended and authorities of both the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the 3-Man Panel faulted Barr. Aida Ogwuche for not resigning her appointment with Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as Civil Servant and concurrently as Principal Special Assistant to Benue State Governor, at least 30 days before the primary elections.

But in a dramatic twist, Barr. Aida Ogwuche took to the pages of newspapers and radio stations on Saturday, boasting that she had filed a Notice of Appeal at the Supreme Court and Stay of Execution of the appellate court’s judgement 24 hours after the delivery of the verdict, stressing that she remains the valid candidate of the party as “status quo” would be maintained.

While posturing, sanctimoniously with exaggerated swagger, the ignominiously sacked Candidate, also boasted that the Supreme Court would overturn the judgement of the Court of Appeal, in no time.

In a statement signed Monday morning by the Director, Legal Services of the Dr. Francis Ottah Agbo’s Campaign Organisation, Barr. Godwin Eche Adole, the people of the Constituency were enjoined to disregard the media propaganda and join hands with the incumbent Parliamentarian who has since kick-started the machineries for winning the February 25 General Election for his party.

While stressing that his opponents are desperate and would stop at nothing to deceive the public, Dr. Ottah Agbo urged the people of Enone to discard Barr Aida Ogwuche’s Blackmail as a ranting of an ant!

The statement added that, Dr Ottah Agbo’s team of lawyers had swiftly applied and obtained a Certified True Copy of the Enrolled Order of Court on Friday, the 13th January, 2023 and the same was immediately served on INEC and PDP, to do the needful!

The statement also wondered why Barr. Aida Ogwuche would claim that her lawyers have filed a Stay of Court Order Execution at the Court of Appeal and a substantive appeal at the Supreme Court a day after the delivery of judgment in the two courts when in actual fact, all parties to the matter are yet to obtain the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the substantive judgement.

It is also pertinent for the public to note that there is a difference between a DECLARATIVE and EXECUTORY Orders/ judgements .

It is important for the public and particularly the mass media to note and verify the judgement delivered by the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, last Thursday, January 12 was a DECLARATIVE Judgement with clear Consequential Orders and there is no judicial precedence in any court in Nigeria where their Lordships have ever granted a Stay of Execution Order on a DECLARATIVE verdict arising from a pre-election matter.

There is nowhere in the world, including in the most rotten systems, that an Appeal or Stay of Execution Order would be filed without the CTC. Nature and indeed natural justice abhors vacuum and until there is a contrary judgement from the apex court, the incumbent remains the Candidate for the February 25 General election!

Similarly, no court in Nigeria has ever granted a Stay of Execution Order on an EXECUTORY Order arising from a pre-election matter. Our case is a pre-election matter and the Appeal Court cannot do otherwise because pre-election matters are time bound!

And assuming without conceding that her lawyers have obtained the judgement CTC in 24 hours, after the judgement, which is Friday, could they have obtained the Appeal Court’s record same Friday, filed the Appeal and Stay of Execution Order same Friday as well? Not possible. Yet Barr.Aida Ogwuche is busy sponsoring a campaign of calumny against the performing Rep Member, as well as deceiving the public that her lawyers have successfully filed an appeal and Stay of Execution Order. The big questions begging for answers are; when were the papers filed? Which court was it filed on Saturday or Sunday and can they show us evidence of filing? Until answers to these questions are supplied, the people of Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency should discard their propaganda as the ranting of an ant! They are drowning.

We therefore, call on our teeming supporters, members of the People’s Democratic Party and the good people of Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency, Benue State, to remain calm and disregard the malicious news been spread by these desperate and anti democratic merchants in the failed attempts to discredit Dr. Ottah Agbo who is a prized asset of PDP and humanity.

We also want to state categorically that our candidate, Hon. Ottah Agbo remains the legitimate and stainless Candidate of PDP for the Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency in the February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections, pursuant to the judgment of the Court of Appeal that sacked the blackmailer!

It is also worthy of note that, neither a Notice of Appeal nor an Order for Stay has been served on Hon. Ottah Agbo or his Lawyers at press time!

We want to thank our teaming supporters for their steadfastness and commitment towards the struggle to reclaim the stolen mandate of Hon. Francis Ottah Agbo which has yielded results”, the statement reads.

It is unbelievable that a civil servant did not resign from her work as stated by the Appellate Court but yet stood for a partisan position to become the candidate of the PDP and yet a Federal High Court in Makurdi did not see the need to enforce the constitutional provision mandating that civil servants resign from their duty prior to standing in a political election.

The trouble with the image of the Supreme Court of Nigeria has now gone beyond our local shores demanding that extremely urgent action by the court is adopted to fix their battered image and this high profile case that dove tails into a constitutional implication of a Civil Servant running for political office is a great opportunity.

Few days back, we learnt about the extent of global opprobrium that the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

A former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, on Wednesday, claimed that the seven Supreme Court Justices, who delivered the judgement that declared Hope Uzodinma as the Imo State governor aftermath of the 2019 elections, were recently denied visas to attend a Judges’ conference in the United States.

The former governor made the claim at the launch of a memoir in honour of retired Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Charles Archibong, titled “A Stranger In Their Midst’’.

Duke, who noted that the United States Embassy in Nigeria took thne action in view of the miscarriage of justice that occurred in the case, also alleged that all the aides, who applied for the US visas, alongside the Justices, were all granted.

LEADERSHIP recalls that the apex court in an unanimous judgment of a seven-member panel, read by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, held that results in 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded during the collation of the final 2019 governorship election results in Imo State.

The names of other Justices on the panel are the then CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, the current CJN Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta, Justice Amiru Sanusi, Justice Amina Augie and Justice Uwanimusa Abba Aji.

While delivering a keynote address at the event, Duke said, “Apart from the recent cases, there is another one where number four became number one, the Justices that gave that judgment cannot go to the United States today because they have been denied visas.

“They want to go on a retreat. Their aides were given visas but they were not given. How much disgrace can we take as a nation before we say enough is enough?

“I am sure this current set will also be denied visas because it is ridiculous, you did not partake in a process but they found a way to dismiss the case procedurally,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), described the National Judicial Council (NJC) as a toothless bulldog.

Agbakoba pointed out that the fact that the NJC is controlled by the Chief Justice of Nigeria who appoints 50 of its 60 members, makes the council inefficient and ineffective.

He said most of the judicial officers in the country live in fear of the executive and its agencies because they are poorly paid and their retirement benefits are nothing to write home about.

The senior lawyer stated, “The conditions of service of the judiciary are terrible. It means they can be controlled. Those who don’t want to just take it easy and keep their heads down are strangers in their midst.”

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko


Press briefing statement dated on 17th February 2023.

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