Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Abia Gov Poll: S-Court defers hearing on appeal against Ikpeazu

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, deferred hearing on Abia State Governorship dispute following an application by candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in the state, Dr. Alex Otti, who applied to be joined as an interested party in the matter. A seven-man panel of Justices of the apex court led by Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, adjourned to enable Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and a contender for the governorship seat, Dr. Uche Ogah to file written briefs in opposition to Otti’s application.
Meanwhile, before the matter was adjourned, Ikpeazu and Ogah who both belong to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, through their respective counsel, vehemently opposed the joinder request, insisting that Otti has no business in the case. Ikpeazu and Ogah told the apex court that the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal had in a Judgement it delivered on August 18, described Otti as a busy body and meddlesome interloper in the legal dispute. They noted that a five-man panel of justices of the appellate held that Otti and his party lacked the locus standi to be joined as interested parties in appeal that arose from verdict of the lower court. The appellate court had in its verdict, stressed that gamut of the dispute that was resolved by trial Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on June 27, bordered on qualification or otherwise of Ikpeazu to participate in the governorship primary election PDP conducted on December 8, 2014. It held that since the issue related to qualification of candidates to be nominated or sponsored by the PDP, neither Otti nor APGA had the legal right to meddle in an inter-party affair of another political party. The appellate court maintained that under section section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010, only those that participated in the PDP primary could question the outcome. However, while addressing the apex court on Tuesday, Otti’s lawyer, Chief Patrick Ikwueto, SAN, sought a reversal of the appellate court’s decision to enable his client to be heard. Ikwueto sought to invoke section 22 of the Supreme Court Act that would empower the apex court panel to consider whether trial Justice Abang was right when he sacked Ikpeazu and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue Certificate of Return to Ogah instead of Otti that came second in the gubernatorial contest. However, Chief Wole Olanikpekun, SAN, and Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, who represented Ikpeazu and Ogah, respectively, opposed the application. Consequently, while the panel gave Otti five days to file his brief of argument, it gave the respondents seven days each to file their responses. More so, the apex court granted Ogah leave to amend his substantive notice of appeal against the appellate court judgment that reversed Ikpeazu’s removal as Abia State Governor. Justice Mohammed said the court would communicate new hearing date to all the parties.


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