President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has been urged to disband the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal for Rivers State (Panel 1) because its head is a Customary Court of Appeal Judge.
The appeal is contained in a petition to Justice Bulkachawa by Chief Godwin Obla, SAN.
In the petition he wrote to Bukachuwa dated July 24, 2015, Chief Obla, who is also the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, alleged that chairman of the panel, Justice Victor Uchenna Okorie, was appointed in violation of paragraphs 1 (1) and (2) of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended.
He said that Justice Okorie is a Justice of the Customary Court of Appeal in Imo State and not a Justice of the High Court and therefore not qualified to be appointed as a chairman of the election tribunal.
Already, the PDP through Obla has filed an application before the tribunal challenging its jurisdiction to continue to hear the petition filed by Senator Magnus Abe of the All Progressives Congress, APC, against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Olaka Nwogu (winner of the election into Rivers South-East Senatorial District) and the PDP.
The petition reads: “We urge your Lordship to timeously look into this matter by taking appropriate steps to correct the anomaly by disbanding and reconstituting a new panel failing which we shall be constrained to take immediate steps by recourse to legal proceedings in the Federal High Court for the interpretation of the relevant statute as they touch and affect the said panel.”
Paragraph 1 (1) of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution to reads: “A National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal shall consist of a chairman and two other members (1) the Chairman who shall be a judge of a High Court and the two other members shall be appointed from among judges of a High Court, Kadis of a Sharia Court of Appeal, Judges of a Customary Court of Appeal or other members of the Judiciary not below the rank of a Chief Magistrate.”
In a separate motion filed before the tribunal, the PDP asked for an order restraining the chairman of the tribunal which is sitting at the Apo Division of Abuja High Court from further presiding over proceedings as chairman of the tribunal.
The party further asked the tribunal to set aside all the directions issued, judicial rulings delivered and the entire proceedings of the tribunal from the date of the panel’s inaugural sitting till date.
It said that the tribunal lacked the competence and jurisdiction to sit as a tribunal having being constituted in violation of the constitution.
The party said: “Justice Okorie, chairman of the tribunal is not a judge of a High Court. Justice Okorie, chairman of the tribunal is a justice of the Customary Court of Appeal, Imo State.
“The President of the Court of Appeal violated the provisions of Paragraph 1(2) of the 6th Schedule to the Constitution (Second Alteration) Act 2011 when she failed to appoint a judge of the High Court as a chairman of the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal for Rivers State (Part 1) sitting at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Apo, Abuja.
“The appointment of Justice Okorie, a justice of the Customary Court of Appeal, Owerri, as the chairman of the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal for Rivers State (Panel 1) sitting at High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Apo, Abuja by the President of Court of Appeal to the extent of its inconsistency with the provisions of Paragraph 1(2) of the 6th Schedule to the Constitution is invalid, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”
The resume of the chairman of the tribunal which is display on the official website of the National Judicial Council, NJC, actually confirmed that he is with the customary court, Imo state division.
He was appointed a judge of customary court in 2008.


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