The Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt has upheld its earlier judgment, which declared King Benson Mgbowaji Egwenre Oruk XVII as the legitimate Okan Ama of Ataba Kingdom in Andoni Local Government Area Of Rivers State.
The latest judgment of Wednesday, March 21, 2018, which affirmed the court’s earlier ruling of October 29, 2015, has brought to an end the 30-year-old chieftaincy dispute in Ataba.
The court had on March 21, 2018 ruled that the consent judgment entered into by the two warring groups in the Royal House of Ataba, remains the final judgment of the court of Appeal, citing several other cases to back up its rulings.
One Elder Jonah Nteile, an elder of Egwe Isiyork Ruling House of Ataba in Andoni, had challenged the said consent judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, describing the purported document as a fraud and gross misrepresentation of facts and asked the same court to reverse itself.
After delivering judgment in the main motion, the three Justices at the Court of Appeal had in a unanimous decision struck out a motion by the applicant, Elder Jonah Nteile, seeking leave of the court to appeal against its earlier consent judgment of October 29, 2015.
Justices Ali Abubakar Gumel, Isaiah Akeju and Bitrus Sanga affirmed that the court lacked the capacity and power to review their earlier decision on the consent judgment or grant the applicant leave for appeal to the Supreme Court, insisting that the said motion was brought out of time, having been filed on February 15, 2016 for a judgment that was delivered on October 29, 2015, more than 90 days statutorily required for such application.
Citing several other cases to back up the decision of the court, Justice Gumel who read the lead judgment, said consequent upon the late filling of the motion, the application was rendered incompetent and the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain it and accordingly struck out the application, though without cost.
Furthermore, in the substantive motion, Justice Gumel reviewed the case, which dated back to January 1989 and in pursuant to order 16 of the Court of Appeal Rules 2011, referring to the consent judgment, declared “this judgment stands as a valid judgment of competent jurisdiction. It is a final judgment of this court.”
Justice Gumel whose ruling was also adopted by his other two colleagues said, “This application to set aside a consent judgment of this court in Appeal No: CA/PH/359/2013, is procedurally wrong and to that extent not cognizable by this court.”
Describing the application as “dead on arrival” and “incurably bad,” the leading Justice struck out the application for “lack of jurisdiction to entertain same as presently constituted,” but made no order for costs.
Immediately after the ruling that lasted about two hours, Sir Benson Mgbowaji Egwenre (King Oruk XVII), the legitimate and substantive Okan Ama of Ataba Kingdom, led a large crowd of Ataba sons and daughters who had thronged the court in solidarity, to St. Cyprian’s Anglican Church, Hospital Road, Port Harcourt, to thank God for allowing justice and the voice of the people to prevail.
Reacting to the ruling, the Okan-ama was grateful to God for sustaining peace and massive progress in the community throughout the duration of the case and called for calm, brotherly love, patriotism, and harmonious relationship among the people of Ataba Kingdom.
He said it was only under a peaceful atmosphere that development could take place and admonished the people to avoid divisive tendencies while warming against external influence in the affairs of the community.