GRAND FINALE? As Court throws out case on tenure elongation for sacked LG Councilmen..

An Owerri high court presided over by Hon. Justice Ngozi Opara has on Monday dismissed the suit filed by former council chairmen seeking for elongation of their two-year tenure which expired August 8, 2012.

Justice Opara in his judgment reviewed submissions by the parties and dismissed the case on gross abuse of court processes by the former council chairmen. Counsel to the state government, Niyi Akintola SAN had argued that the court lack jurisdiction to hear the case since the claimants had served out their tenure as contained in the court of Appeal Judgment of May 5, 2012, pointing out that hence same case is pending at the Abuja Federal High court hearing it in a court with same jurisdiction will translate to abuse of court processes. He further argued that the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case as it lacks the powers to elongate tenured position of the former council chairmen against the provisions of the law as amended by Imo State House of Assembly and duly assented by the former Governor of the state.

In his argument, the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Barr. Soronnadi Njoku argued that the former chairmen had served out their term stating that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the case as Court of Appeal in its Judgment clearly pointed out that the former chairmen never left office. Barr. Njoku contended that the judgment only ordered them to go back and serve out their tenure considering their submission that they were only serving a two-year tenure following their inauguration on August 9, 2010.

In their argument, the counsel to the former chairmen, D.O. Agbo Esq. contended that the court has jurisdiction to hear the case, stating that the tenure of his clients was unconstitutionally and illegally truncated by their sack on May 6, 2011 and that since they were out of office for more than a year, their tenure should be elongated to regain the lost period. He argued that the two-year tenure was signed after they had started their election process on February 25, 2010 and that the law should not be in retrospect. The counsel further argued that hearing the case does not in any way amount to abuse of court processes because the defendants have not been able to prove to the court that a similar suit is going on elsewhere since no certified court process has been tendered before the court. But counsel to the state government, Chief Adeniyi Akintola confirmed tendering a process of the suit in Abuja court which had the same particulars with the same case in Owerri high court.

In his judgment, Justice Opara said though the court has jurisdiction to hear the case, it however lacks the powers to elongate the tenure of an elective position and that continuing with the case will amount to abuse of court processes since there is a similar suit in Abuja high court. He dismissed the case and awarded a cost of N40,000.00 against the claimants.

Speaking after the courts judgment, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Soronnadi Njoku averred that the former council chairmen have served out their tenure and does not have any other business in the councils.He wondered how they could claim that a law signed on 23rd June, 2010 while they were inaugurated on 9th August, 2010 should not be in retrospect. It could be recalled that the former chairmen elected under the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) went to court after serving out their term on August 8, 2012 seeking for tenure elongation.


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