Imo Guber: Supreme Court Fixes Jan 24 for Judgment

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The Supreme Court Thursday reserved for judgment the appeal filed by the Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal in Owerri, which had joined the former governor of the state, Ikedi Ohakim, as a party to the suit brought by the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2011 governorship elections in Imo State, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume.
Justice Afolabi Fabiyi, who led other six justices of the court fixed judgment for January 24, 2014 after the parties argued their respective cases.
Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), who represented Okorocha while arguing the main appeal, said the issues being raised by Ohakim were issues that had been dealt with by the Supreme Court when Ohakim challenged Okorocha's election.
He said: "Before the lower court we exhibited the judgment of this court, we also exhibited the pleadings at the tribunal, the reliefs that were sought at the tribunal up to the Supreme Court and we are saying that those reliefs have been litigated on up to the Supreme Court."
Akintola said the appeal had nothing to do with the right to join.
He said: "What we are saying is, does the court have jurisdiction, the question is what purpose will the leave serve against the judgment of this court?"
The counsel noted that extension of time was granted for Ohakim to seek leave and the leave was granted to him to appeal as an interested party adding that Ohakim's appeal was incompetent because no leave was granted to him to enable him appeal out of time.
Reacting to the objection raised by Ohakim that the appeal challenging his joinder was not properly filed, Adeniyi said the objection was misconceived.
He said: "The application before the lower court was an abuse of court process. I urge the court to over rule the objection of Ohakim and hold that the appeal is competent and allow the appeal."
He asked the court to appreciate the fact that the lower court was not sitting as an election appeal tribunal but as a regular court in a pre-election matter and therefore lacked the power to declare Ohakim as the duly elected governor as requested by the former governor.
Responding, Chief Wole Olanipekun, urged the court to dismiss the appeal.
He said: "My learned friend had referred the court to the case of Igbeke versus Okadigbo. The case is against them because it was after the matter has been slated for judgment that a counsel had come asking the court to dismiss the appeal, based on that case and our preliminary objection your lordships will dismiss this appeal."
According to him, the case is that of exercise of discretion, and that the court of appeal exercised its discretion in Ohakim's favour.
He said the appeal court rightly exercised its discretion in his client's favour.
He said: "They are the people that are abusing the processes of this court in a most crass manner because the lower court has not gone into the merits of the matter. They are referring the court to the decision of this court in Okorocha and PDP when the lower court has not gone into the matter, this court can only assume jurisdiction to hear an appeal against the decision of the lower court."
He cited the case of Emeka versus Okadigbo 2012, 18 NWLR part 1331 page 55 @ 94, 2 to 98, where the court dismissed Okadigbo's appeal when she came to the Supreme Court in an election matter but when she came in a pre-election the court affirmed her as the Senator for Anambra North.
He said those were some of the issues that would be addressed at the Court of Appeal.
He urged the court to not only dismiss the appeal but also asked for accelerated hearing of the appeal, saying that they had been at the apex court for one year, adding that time was of essence.
Dr. Mohammed Ladan, who argued the case of INEC urged the court to dismiss the appeal as according to the commission, the Court of Appeal was right in assuming jurisdiction and in granting Ohakim leave to join and appeal out of time.
After hearing the parties, Justice Fabiyi fixed judgment for January 24, 2014.
Earlier, two lawyers announced appearance for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
However, after preliminary hearing, the court rejected the counsel engaged by Maxi Okwu, Mr. Oba Maduabuchi, and instead recognised the counsel engaged by Victor Umeh Ahmed Raji (SAN) following clarifications from lead counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chief Adegboyega Awomolo that Umeh was the recognised National Chairman of the party.
After he was recognised, Raji asked to withdraw from the appeal and his application was granted by the court.
Justice Fabiyi rejected Okorocha's opposition to the withdrawal by APGA and consequently dismissed the withdrawn appeal.
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