Hearing in an appeal filed by loyalists of Governor Rotimi Amaechi to challenge their removal as the executive committee members of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State was stalled on Wednesday at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division.
The Godspower Ake-led Rivers State PDP executive, believed to be loyal to Amaechi, was sacked by an Abuja High Court on April 15, 2013, a development which resulted in the emergence of the current leadership of the party in the state, headed by Felix Obuah.
Obuah is a loyalist of Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike.
Ake and his group had approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, to challenge their removal from office.
They asked the appellate court to set aside their sack by the Abuja High Court, and return them to office as the validly elected PDP executive committee in Rivers State.
A panel of the Court of Appeal was slated to hear the appeal on Wednesday but the hearing could not hold as the lawyer representing the PDP in the matter, Ken Njemanze, SAN, wrote to inform the court that he had travelled to the United States for medical treatment.
The letter written by Njemanze was read by one of the members of the panel headed by Justice Amiru Sanusi, after which the lawyers to the other parties in the matter were asked to address the court on whether the hearing could still proceed.
Counsel to the Ake faction, Joseph Daudu, SAN, argued that the letter was not enough to stop the scheduled hearing, especially since the court had already ordered accelerated hearing in the matter.
Daudu also noted that Njemanze’s letter may be a ploy to delay the matter.
“His letter should not stop this proceeding today, this case is time related and there is nothing annexed to his letter to show the nature or urgency of his trip.
“He should have sent somebody from his chambers to stand-in for him and there is no basis upon which the court can exercise its discretion in his favour as there is nothing annexed to his said letter,” Daudu said.
But Obuah’s lawyer, Godwin Obla, SAN, urged the court to adjourn the matter.
“As a counsel, I would have asked for a material evidence as Daudu pointed out, if the matter is a criminal case.
“But in a case as this, I will gladly believe the senior advocate as he has no reason to toy with his health matters. I have no objection to the adjournment of this case,” Obla said.
The lawyer of the Independent National Electoral Commission, which is among the respondents in the appeal, Ibrahim Bawa, also supported the move to adjourn the case.
Bawa informed the court that Njemanze, as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, could not lie about his health condition in order to deceive the court.
The proposed adjournment was equally backed by Sunday Ameh, SAN, counsel to Steve Emelieze, the Secretary of the Electoral Panel of the PDP in Rivers State.
He told the court that he had no objection to an adjournment since it was premised on the health of a senior lawyer.
In its ruling, the court held that it was inclined to agree with Daudu on the point that Njamanze ought to have sent somebody from his office to represent him, but that since the lawyer’s trip to the US was for a medical purpose, it could not but accept the letter.
Justice Sanusi however ordered that henceforth, any counsel who was not disposed to appear before the court should send a representative.
“The circumstances surrounding the letter may have made it impossible to attach any material to the letter, we are inclined to grant an adjournment, but with a rider that any counsel not disposed to appear subsequently should send a representative,” he said.
The matter was thereafter adjourned to November 5, 2013.