Our attention has been drawn to a false and misleading report in a local newspaper in Akwa Ibom State called THE INK in its current edition dated Thursday 29th Oct. – Wednesday 4th November, 2015 to the effect that the Court of Appeal has ‘rejected’ the “petition” of the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Umana Okon Umana.
The headline/title of the report reads: “APPEAL COURT REJECTS UMANA’S PETITION”
According to the tasteless publication, “The Appeal court’s position is sequel to a complaint made by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the copies of the briefs served them by the APC were not fully signed or endorsed by the court before being served and the court also noted that filing fees were not paid.”
The report is not only laughable but childish. The author of the publication and his sponsors displayed their crass ignorance of the law by writing that the Petitioners’ brief of argument was rejected as if a brief of argument can be filed without a corresponding valid Notice of Appeal. A brief of argument is an address filed in support of a Notice of Appeal. It does not stand on its own and cannot be filed except with a corresponding Notice of Appeal. It is only an argument and an argument cannot be proffered in respect of a nonexistent appeal.
We do not know when Nigerian courts took over the responsibility of signing court processes from the litigants. Perhaps the Appeal Court referred to in the publication exist in the outer space where the author of the publication and his sponsors possible reside.
That publication is only a figment of imagination of its author whose motive is as clear as crystal ball. Interestingly, the author of the false report ignorantly wrote PETITION instead of appeal. Petitions are only filed at the Election Tribunal and not at the Court of Appeal except in presidential election petitions where the Court of Appeal sits as a tribunal. What is filed at the Court of Appeal is a Notice of Appeal.
The truth of the matter is that no such thing has happened. No brief of argument, “petition” or appeal has been rejected by the Court of Appeal. As at today Thursday, 29th October 2015, the Records of Appeal are still being compiled by the parties. The Certified True Copy (CTC) of the October 21 judgment was only made available to the parties on Monday, October 26, 2015. As at today none of the parties has filed a Notice of Appeal at the Court of Appeal against the judgment of the Justice Sadiq Umar-led panel.
By the provisions of Section 143 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) the parties to a petition have 21 days from the date of the decision of the Tribunal to file an appeal. In essence, the Petitioners still have about two weeks from today to file a Notice of Appeal. No valid appeal can be filed without the CTC of the judgment and Records of Appeal.
It is hope that this free tutorial will be of assistance to the author of the publication and his sponsors. The author of the report should be more tactful in his subsequent malicious and mendacious reports.
None of the Respondents; Udom Emmanuel, PDP or INEC has filed an appeal against the judgment of the Tribunal. The author should rather concentrate on the case of his sponsors (Udom Emmanuel and the PDP) instead of being obsessed with the case of the Petitioners. It is not his business how the Petitioners case is being prosecuted.
Journalists should be circumspect in reporting court matters and proceedings. It is the height of professional mischief and irresponsibility for someone to write that the Court of Appeal has rejected a brief of argument when the Notice of Appeal is yet to be filed. Propaganda may be a tool in politics and political reportage but it should not be extended to court matters.
I urge Akwa Ibom people and the general public to ignore the report by THE INK Newspaper or any other news outlet.
Inibehe Effiong, ESQ.