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Monday, 15 February 2016

Appeal Court Confirms Bayelsa Speaker’s Sack

The Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has confirmed that it nullified the election of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly Speaker, Mr. Kombowei Benson.

The court’s affirmation put paid to weeks of denials by Benson that the December 9 judgment in a case filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Ebifaghe Orunimighe, declared his election null and void.
Benson refused to relinquish the Southern Ijaw Constituency 4 seat and his speakership position, insisting that the written judgment was different from the court’s records of proceedings, which dismissed the appeal.
He continued to retain his seat and presided over the 2016 Appropriation Bill sent by Governor Seriake Dickson.
But on February 10, the court, ruling on a fresh application filed by Benson, validated its judgment, which nullified the election of the former speaker.
The court, presided over by a new panel of five justices, admitted that the December 9 lead judgment was prepared by Justice Ejembi Eko in agreement with Justices Mohammed Garba and Stephen Adah.
The justices are Abdu Aboki, Sidi Bage, Samuel Oseji, Ibrahim Bdliya and Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf.
Aboki, who delivered the ruling on Benson’s application, explained that the judgment was delivered by Garba because Eko, who prepared it, was on assignment.
On making entries in the record of proceedings, Aboki said Garba erroneously indicated that the lead judgment of Eko dismissed the appeal contrary to the conclusion that the appeal was allowed.
But he said: “It is my view that a different entry made in a court record albeit erroneously does not alter the effect of judgment of the court in which the rights of the party are determined one way or the other.
“The judgment of a court consists of the collation and analysis of evidence as presented before the court and making of findings, reasoning and the conclusion. This can be seen to exist in exhibit A, the lead judgment prepared by Ejembi Eko.
“It forms the only source of drawing up an enrolment of the order of this court and not from the notes made during a court proceeding”.
Aboki added that the argument of Benson that two judgments emanated from the court on the same case could not hold since he (Benson) failed to present to the court a proof of another ruling.
“The onus, therefore, is on the applicants, who are alleging that there are two different judgments emanating from this court with respect to the appeal, to prove same which they have failed to do.
“The lead judgment of Justice Ejembi Eko is the judgment of this court. It is obvious that in the process of making entry of the judgment in the record, Justice Mohammed Garba made a mistake when he stated that the appeal was dismissed.
“The entry in the record of book does not constitute the judgment of the court. If the judgment is read, it will be obvious and clear to any unbiased and dispassionate reader that the entry in the record is a mistake,” he said.
Quoting the Supreme Court in the case between Ibe vs Onuora, Aboki added: “The courts are presided over by human beings and being human, they are prone to mistakes and slips in the course of execution of their judicial functions.”
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