The 3-man Panel of Appeal Court Judges in Calabar presiding over cases N0: CA/C/62/2019 and CA/C/70/2019 involving Etim John and others versus John Ochalla and others including Senator John Owan-Enoh representing other APC candidates in the 2019 elections, yielded to a petition before them and disqualified themselves from continuing in the case.
The judges who recuse themselves from the case however left valid, the Stay of Execution Order which they had earlier granted on the cases recognising Senator John Owan-Enoh and other candidates of APC who had their names published by INEC as validly nominated to stand the next election.
The lead Judge, Justice Prof. S. A. Owoade had announced to the court that upon arriving his chambers in the morning, he was served with two petitions written by Etim John. He shared copies of the petitions with counsels to the parties and asked for their reactions,
The petitions were separately addressed to the President of the Court of Appeal as well as to National Judicial Commission, (a non-existing commission) alleging that he has lost confidence in the Justice Owoade led panel of judges by alleged N250million graft.
The petition did not mention who paid the N250million graft and to who in particular. Council to Senator Owan-Enoh Awa Kalu SAN as well as Counsel to the All Progressive Congress, Mba Ukweni SAN tried to point out that the petitions should be ignored as the petitions were not dated and not properly routed by the petitioner.
The Appellant counsel further pointed to the court that even the petition written to the National Judicial Commission was a nullity because there was no entity as such in Nigeria. “It is a clear ploy to delay the case which had taken briefs of counsel and scheduled for hearing”, the Appellant counsel maintained.
Counsel to Etim John, Ayei Okpa, in his response, fended ignorance of the petition from his client and asked that he be given time to consult with his client. The court rose for ten minutes, and upon resumption of the session, the Judges in their wisdom unanimously recused themselves from the matter.
Speaking with newsmen, a member of the team of Counsels to the Senator Owan-Enoh, Bernard Afu Esq explained to Journalists that a new panel of judges will be appointed by the President of the Court of Appeal and that they will all return to court for the case “but as it stands, Senator John Owan-Enoh remains the governorship candidate of APC and other candidates along with him who had their names published by INEC, remain validly nominated candidates of the party as the Stay of Execution Order of court in favour of that subsist”.
Counsel to Etim John, Ayei Okpa Esq, avoided speaking with journalists as he moved into his car and zoomed off.