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Amaechi VS Omehia: You can't try me, Omehia tells Appeal Court

Posted by By GODWIN TSA, Abuja on 2007/07/18 | Views: 416 |

Amaechi VS Omehia: You can't try me, Omehia tells Appeal Court


As the tussle over the governorship candidate of Rivers State rages on, Governor Celestine Omehia has told a Court of Appeal that he cannot be tried in any court of law based on his immunity under the constitution. This came as the Appellate Court had stormy session on all issues relating to the appeal yesterday.

As court fixed Friday for judgement

As the tussle over the governorship candidate of Rivers State rages on, Governor Celestine Omehia has told a Court of Appeal that he cannot be tried in any court of law based on his immunity under the constitution. This came as the Appellate Court had stormy session on all issues relating to the appeal yesterday.

The court which adjourned judgment in the suit till Friday this week, sat for seven hours after listening to all pending applications bordering on jurisdiction and one seeking leave by the INEC to furnish the court with fresh evidence over Rotimi Amaechi's alleged indictment by the EFCC, it decided to take both main and the cross appeals.

In his motion over section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, Governor Omehia through his lawyer, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) said that immunity was an issue to be considered before going into the appeal as it raised the fundamental issue on jurisdiction. This same point was dealt with in details while arguing his cross appeal.

Ukala said that the matter before the court was a civil case which falls under section 308 of the constitution to the effect that a holder of the office of the governor is immuned against prosecution.


He said that once the appellant has also filed a petition before the election petition tribunal, it
follows that the court would dismiss his appeal, adding that section 308 is absolute to the extent that no provision of the consitution or any other statute can do anything to the contrary or undermine it. According to Ukala, the total effect of the section 308 is that it renders all processes before the court null and void and of no effect notwithstanding that the issue at the appeal was brought as a pre-election matter.

Counsel to INEC, Amaechi Iwuewu (SAN) also raised the issue of indictment of the former speaker of the Rivers State House of assembly by the EFCC and urged the court to allow
him bring evidence to prove the allegation or indictment. Replying, counsel to the appellant said that the issue before the court was a pre election matter and admitting the immunity of the governor, he said that what the appellant has invited the court to do is examining the process of electing the governor which clearly violated the provison of section 34 (2) of the constitution.

Law, he said, is not an instrument of oppression nor of fraud and that once the action was in court before INEC conducted the election, it would be a fraudulent move to hide under immunity to cover the illegal act.
He said that the court should not listen to distraction as the order of the supreme court was very
clear that the matter be heard on its merit, stating that the latest application on leave to furnish
further evidence and the other one on immunity were mere irrelevancies capable of distracting the court from the cause of justice.

According to him, if the evidence was important, the
applicants would have raised it at the trial court and not now when the whole world was waiting for the court to make pronouncement. Fagbemi said that if PDP failed to provide cogent and
verifiable reason at the trial court, INEC cannot fish for just any reason to justify its action and
inaction.
Arguing his appeal, Fagbemi distinguished between Ararume's and Amaechi's case, saying that in Ararume, the appellant actually contested the primary election but in the appeal at the court, the second respondent did not contest the election to bear the party's flag at the general election.

He submitted that section 153 (1) of the constitution states the powers and function of INEC and action in utter disregard of the law is unconstitutional and he urged the court to tread the path of justice. Section 308, he argued, did not anticipate fraud and any party to election is expected to get to the office of the governor on a clean slate before claiming immunity, adding that it is begging the issue to raise immunity now and that to allow it is to foist on the

court a very helpless situation. While replying to the submision by Ukala that the court should respect the mandate of the people of Rivers state by not depriving them of the mandate,
Fagbemi also urged the court to hold that the substitution of the appellant did not take place and
that the person actually voted for by the electorate was his client. After taking all arguments, the court presided over by justice Muhammaed Danlami fixed judgment in the case
for next Friday.

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