The Supreme Court has reserved ruling on applications relating to the Abia State governorship tussle for May 12.
A five-member panel of the apex court presided over by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, gave the date after hearing arguments from counsel on the matter.
A businessman, Samson Ogah, had approached the Supreme Court to challenge the August 18, 2016 ruling of the Appeal Court. The appellate court reversed a previous judgement by the Abuja division of the Federal High Court that declared Mr. Ogah the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the 2015 governorship election, instead of Okezie Ikpeazu who ran and won the election.
The judgement delivered by Justice Okon Abang on June 27, 2016 had sacked Mr. Ikpeazu from office as governor of Abia State, after the court found him guilty of tax offences.
In another judgement on August 18, however, the appellate court described the ruling by Mr. Abang as a rape of democracy and ordered that Mr. Ikpeazu retains his office.
Subsequently, Mr. Ogah approached the apex court to set aside the ruling of the appellate court.
Mr. Ogah’s lawyer, Alex Izinyon, said his client asked to be returned as the authentic candidate of the PDP in the said election because the incumbent governor was found guilty of falsifying tax documents.
He added that Mr. Ogah had emerged runner-up to Mr. Ikpeazu which also formed the bases for his qualification as the authentic candidate in the election, given the indictment against Mr. Ikpeazu.
Mr. Izinyon, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, argued that according to law, issues bordering on falsification of such documents had adverse effect on the qualification or otherwise of the candidate in an election.
He stressed that the offence for which Mr. Ikpeazu was accused was a pre-election matter which should determine his qualification or otherwise as a candidate in the election.
But responding to Mr. Izinyon’s arguments, Mr. Ikpeazu’s lawyer, Wole Olanikpekun, said the appellate court took due consideration of the appropriate sections of the law and found that his client was duly qualified for the said election, as against the ruling of the FHC.
Another member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Friday Nwosu, who had also taken part in the party’s primaries ahead of the 2015 elections joined in the suit, both at the Appeal Court and at the Supreme Court.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Mr. Nwosu, whose application had in a previous sitting been struck out because it had been partially overtaken by events, approached the court with yet another application, forcing the presiding Justice Onnoghen to issue a fine of N200,000 to be paid personally by Mr. Nwosu’s lawyer, A.C. Ozioko.