Reactions Trail Supreme Court’s Chastisement of Court of Appeal

Supreme Court

Last week’s Supreme Court judgment on the All Progressives Congress (APC) congresses in Rivers State has unsettled the Court of Appeal, it was learnt at the weekend.

The apex court’s strong words used in the judgment, sources said, made the Justices uncomfortable.

The chastisement of the appellate court has also come under critical review by notable lawyers.

In the judgment, the Supreme Court chided the Court of Appeal for engaging in “judicial rascality” in setting aside the order of a Port Harcourt High Court barring the state APC executives from conducting congresses.

The apex court also described the conduct of the Court of Appeal as “sacrilegious”.

As judicial officers, Court of Appeal justices have accepted the judgment but some seem to believe that their Lordships at the apex court were a bit harsh on the justices of the lower court, a source said.

A notable lawyer, who craved anonymity, said the “language of the learned justices of the Supreme Court was somehow harsh”.

He believes that the language adds nothing to the point made by the apex court, which is that the court of appeal violated the principle of judicial precedents in granting an order of stay of execution against the ruling of the Port Harcourt high court.

A professor of law said: “Setting aside a judgment of a lower court is enough indictment. They have been told that their interpretation of the law was wrong.  Any other thing that does not add value to the law is absolutely unnecessary.”

He said the Supreme Court had restated what is a fundamental principle in law;  that is a favourable ruling should not be accorded a party that is in grave disobedience of court orders.

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In the opinion of another lawyer, what should interest both the bar and the bench “is that the Supreme Court is telling our lordships to do their work more thoroughly”.

He said politicians should never be encouraged to ridicule the courts by engaging in what the Supreme Court described in the judgment in question as “the most impudent manner”.

The Rivers State High Court, before Justice Chinwendu Nwogu, on May 11 issued injunctive reliefs that restrained the APC from conducting congresses in the state. The reliefs were sequel to a suit filed by one Abdullahi Umar and 22 others. The order was reaffirmed on May 13.

The APC approached the Court of Appeal for a stay of proceeding and execution of the high court order. The Appeal Court stayed the execution of the high court order.

Umar and the respondents appealed the order of the Appeal Court. Granting their prayers, the Supreme Court held that “it is a very serious matter for anyone to flout a positive order of a court and still approach the court for remedy”. The Supreme Court further held that it was wrongful for the Court of Appeal to have entertained a party in contempt of a valid court order.

“The simple truth, therefore, is that when the respondent applied for stay of execution, it was in gross abuse of a court order. The court guards its power jealously. Regrettably, the lower court condoned the respondent’s conduct,” Justice Centus Nweze ruled on behalf of other justices of the Supreme Court.

Source: The Nation


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