Abia governorship tussle: Supreme Court grants Oti leave to appeal Ikpeazu’s victory

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu (Photo credit: thewillnigeria.com)
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu (Photo credit: thewillnigeria.com)

The Supreme Court on Friday granted leave to Alex Oti of APGA to be joined as an interested party to challenge the election of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu as governor of Abia.

Justice Clara Ogunbiyi led four other justices to arrive at the unanimous decision.

“The appellant applicant appeal challenging the August 5, 2016 judgment of the lower court has merit.

“The appeal is predicated on grounds of mixed law and facts and therefore, this court is compelled to grant it in the interest of justice.

“In the circumstance, the August 5, 2016 decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which refused to grant the applicant the permission to be joined in the pending Abia governorship suit is set aside.

“The prayer of the appellant urging this court consider his appeal against Gov. Ikpeazu Okezie is hereby deemed as filed before this court,’’ she said.

Ms. Ogubiyi also held that granting this leave for the applicant to appeal the decision of the lower court on the matter did not mean that the appeal could succeed.

“The law has established that once an application is challenging a matter on mixed law and facts, justice demands that he or she must be heard,” she said.

Justice Dati Yahaya, who presided over the case at the lower court, held that Mr. Oti failed to establish his interest in the internal affairs of the PDP.

Alex Otti
Alex Otti

The court held that the subject of litigation between Samson Ogah and Okezie Ikpeazu, who were all members of the PDP, was the primary election of the party conducted on December 8, 2014.

The applicant, the court held, being member of APGA had no locus standi to question the primary election of the PDP.

Mr. Yahaya also held that the applicant failed to give circumstantial reasons to sway the court to exercise its judicial discretion in his favour.

Among others, the court held that the applicant failed to transmit the proceedings of the trial court to the Court of Appeal, where his interest was supposed to be established.

According to the judge, Mr. Oti merely relied on affidavit depositions.

The appellate court further held that allowing the applicant to join the dispute would amount to attempt to change the nature of the suit from an intra-party to an inter party tussle.

Mr. Oti had called for his enthronement as governor of Abia, when Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court removed Ikpeazu from office.

Mr. Abang had in the October 29, 2016 judgment made a consequential order returning Mr. Ogah as the governor.

However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja upturned that decision by re-affirming Mr. Ikpeazu’s election.

Kanu-Agabi
Kanu Agabi

Kanu Agabi, counsel to the governor, who spoke with journalists after the session, said Mr. Oti had no chance in the ongoing appeals against his client.

He said the decision of the Court of Appeal that re-affirmed Mr. Ikpeazu as governor had foreclosed his chances of making anything out of the suit.

“This tussle is strictly an intra-party matter. Oti is not a member of the PDP, only Ogah is in contention. In any case, the apex court is prepared to hear him,” he said.

(NAN)


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