Lambasts trial judge for turning the law upside down
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal yesterday nullified the Certificate of Return issued to Dr. Samson Ogah by the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] as the governor of Abia State after setting aside the judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court which sacked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu over alleged falsification of his tax papers.
The appellate Court did not spare Justice Abang, describing his decision as a rape of democracy.
In a unanimous judgment, the appellate court held that the trial Judge, displayed high level of bias and stood the law on its head in nullifying the election of Ikpeazu who polled the highest votes at the governorship election.
The five-man panel of Justices led by Justice Helen Ogunwumiju held that there was no iota of justification of the declaratory orders of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court and accordingly restored the status of Ikpeazu as the duly elected governor of Abia State.
Although Dr. Ogah was dethroned by the appellate court, he did not go empty handed as the court had earlier dismissed the appeal filed by a governorship aspirant in Abia State, Mr. Friday Nwosu, which challenged his locus standi to initiate the suit.
The appellant, Nwosu participated in the Peoples Democratic Party’s December 8, 2014 primary which was won by Ikpeazu and Ogah as first runner up.
Delivering the judgment of the court on Nwosu’s appeal, justice Tanko Hussaini held that Ogah was legally clothed with locus standi to institute the suit having participated at the December 8, 2014 primary of the party.
Justice Hussaini said Nwosu misapplied the doctrine of waiver and estopel when he argued that Ogah having protested against the outcome of the primary cannot turn around to reap from it.
But delivering judgments in the appeals filed by Governor Ikpeazu and his political platform, the PDP, the appellate court voided the legal action which brought about the judgment of justice Abang on the ground that the originating summons relied upon by the judge to give the judgment did not comply with any known law in the country .
Justice Ibrahim Shata Bdliya who delivered one of the lead judgments in an appeal filed by Ikpeazu, held that Justice Abang erred in law by assuming jurisdiction in an originating summons that was not signed by any known and identifiable legal practitioner among the three lawyers that issue the said summons.
The court held that the judgment of the Federal High Court delivered on June 27, cannot stand in law having been based on an originating summons that was invalid, null and void.
Apart from not signing the originating summons, the Appeal Court held that the suit filed by Ogah did not disclose any cause of action because it was filed even before the appellant (Ikpeazu) submitted his documents to INEC.
Justice Bdliya agreed with counsel to the governor Chief Wole Olanipekun that it was not the duty of the court to begin to search for the signatory to the originating summons to authenticate it as required by law.
Besides, the Appeal Court held that although the originating summons was later amended, but said that an amended originating summon has no capacity to cure a defective and incurably bad originating summons being the foundation of the suit.
The Appeal Court further agreed with Olanipekun that Justice Abang erred in law by making findings at the interlocutory level of case by taking a stance on issues in the main suit.
“He ought not to have given the final findings at the interlocutory level and his conclusion at the interlocutory level was a breach of fair hearing against the appellant (Ikpeazu) who was not given opportunity to use the substantive suit to prove his case.
The court also upheld the submission of Olanipekun that because of the circumstances if the issues in the suit, the suit ought to have been Instituted through the use of writ where witnesses can be called to make clarifications on the the disputed issues, rather than using originating summons that does not require the calling of witnesses.
In another Judgment by Justice Helen Morenikeji Ogunwumiju, the appellate court held that Justice Abang raped democracy in his order that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should issue a certificate of return to Dr. Samson Ogah when there was no evidence of forgery of criminality against the appellant.
According to the court, the judgment of Justice Abang was grossly erroneous because it was based on inadequacy of tax receipt that cannot be visited on the appellant (Ikpeazu).
“After reading through the judgment several times, I was amazed at how the trial Judge arrived at his conclusion of pejury against the appellant when there was no evidence of forgery. To say the least, his findings are ridiculous.