On Wednesday, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court adjourned a suit filed by Akanimo Udofia, a factional governorship candidate of Akwa Ibom All Progressives Congress (APC), until January 23, pending an Appeal Court decision in a similar matter.
Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling, held that since the reliefs sought in Mr Udofia’s suit were similar to the reliefs granted by the Uyo Division of the Federal High Court in Ita Enang’s case, he could be bound by the Court of Appeal’s decision.
Mr Nwite, who agreed with Mr Udofia’s counsel, Umeh Kalu, said the adjournment would also be in the interest of justice.
The Uyo division of the court had, on November 14, nullified the nomination of Mr Udofia as the governorship candidate of the APC in Akwa Ibom.
The judge, Agatha Okeke, in the suit instituted by Mr Enang, a contestant in the poll, ordered the APC to conduct a fresh governorship primary within two weeks but barred Udofia from participating in the new primary. But Mr Udofia had filed an appeal marked: CS/C/370/2022 to challenge the FHC judgment.
The appellate court in Abuja, which heard the matter on December 24, 2022, had reserved judgment.
However, when a suit filed by Mr Udofia against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in which Mr Enang was joined, came up before Mr Nwite on Tuesday, Mr Enang had prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lack of diligent prosecution.
The ex-lawmaker also urged the court to commit Udofia to prison for allegations bordering on perjury.
Earlier, Mr Kalu had asked for an adjournment to await the superior court’s decision, and the judge adjourned on Wednesday to deliver the ruling.
Delivering the ruling, Justice Nwite, who read all the 10 reliefs granted by the Uyo court in Enang’s suit marked: FHC/UY/CS/114/22, said, “It is not in dispute that the reliefs sought in the instant suit are similar to the reliefs granted by my learner brother, Okeke A.A., which is subject to appeal and judgment so reserved.”
According to Mr Nwite, the Uyo court made a declaration that the 1st defendant, Mr Akanimo Asuquo Udofia, not being a member of APC as of May 26, 2022, and having not fulfilled the requirements of Articles 9.5, 214(II) and 32(1)(I) of the constitution of APC is not qualified to contest the governorship primary election of APC in Akwa Ibom.
After reading out all the reliefs, the judge stated that the superior court’s decision would be binding on his court.
“By virtue of stare decisis, this court is bound by the decision of court of the appeal,” he said.
He said that since the Appeal Court judgment would be delivered on or before Jan. 20, it was only wise to await the decision.
“It is also not in doubt that the instant suit has a life span above the Court of Appeal matter,” he said.
Mr Nwite said, going by the undisputed fact, he believed that the adjournment should be granted.
He consequently adjourned the matter until January 23 for a hearing.
NAN reports that the APC and Udofia had sued INEC as the sole defendant before Mr Nwite.
Mr Udofia had sought an order compelling INEC to accept his name as the governorship candidate for Akwa Ibom 2023 poll. He also asked for an order directing the commission to publish his name as forwarded by the party to it.
After listening to the parties in the suit, the court fixed October 6, 2022, for judgment. But the appearance of Enang in court forced the judge to halt the delivery of the judgment.
Mr Enang, the ex-presidential aide, drew the court’s attention to his presence as a party seeking to be joined in the matter, and the court granted his prayer in a motion he brought for joinder on December 6, 2022.