20 Defected Cross River Legislators: The Legal Position – OZEKHOME
THE CROSS RIVER STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY HAS APPEALED THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT
Today, the Federal High Court, coran Honourable Justice Taiwo O.Taiwo, delivered judgment in the case involving 20 legislators of the Cross River State House of Assembly.
In the said judgement, Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo granted the reliefs claimed by the PDP to the effect that the legislators should vacate their seats and that INEC should conduct elections WITHIN 90 DAYS into their offices, which the court held had become vacant by operation of sections 168 (1) (g) and 109 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution, as altered.
We as counsel to the legislators took immediate steps by promptly filing a Notice of Appeal and a motion for stay of execution.
We took these immediate steps notwithstanding the legal position that by virtue of section 25(a) of the Court of Appeal Act, 2013 ,the legislators are legally entitled to 90 days, within which to file their appeal. Aware that a notice of appeal does not automatically act as a stay of execution, we also simultaneously took steps to immediately file a motion for stay of execution. We have duly served all counsel to the respondents.
By these steps, the appellants have evinced a clear intention to pursue their right of appeal donated to them by sections 240 and 241 of the 1999 Constitution as altered. For the avoidance of doubt, the legislators’ appeal against the judgment of the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal is “as of right”, being a FINAL DECISION .
Consequently, no leave of the Federal High Court is thus required by the Appellant to appeal.
It has become necessary to emphasize to members of the public that the legislators’ right of appeal which has accrued is a constitutional right which is not exhausted until the final court of the land (the supreme court) pronounces upon the subject matter of appeal. This is to douse the rumours currently making the rounds that by the Federal High Court judgment, the legislators have automatically lost their seats and can no longer terefore sit or conduct normal legislative business in the House of Assembly. This is completely false. Even the judgement of the Federal High Court specifically affirmed the alternative relief of the INEC conducting election WITHIN 90 DAYS into the offices.
As we await the date of hearing of our motion for stay of execution and the hearing and final determination of the Appeal already duly filled, today (21st March, 2022), the legislators are legally and constitutionally empowered to continue to sit in their Chamber and carry out their normal legislative business in the best interest of their teaming constituents.The hierarchy of courts existing in Nigeria has permitted them this window of opportunity. This is in accordance with the dictates of the Rule of Law and adherence to due process. The legislators should therefore ignore the rumour merchants who are busy peddling scare-mongering stories to the effect that the legislators can neither sit, have access to their hallowed Chamber, nor conduct normal legislative business in the Chambers of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Calabar.
Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome SAN, OFR, FCIArb, LLM, PhD, LLD is the Chief Counsel/Head of Mike Ozekhome Chambers