The Court of Appeal, Abuja division, has dismissed the applications by the governorship candidates of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Alex Oti and KOWA party, Dan Onyeonagu respectively seeking to join in the Abia state governorship tussle pending before the court.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Abubakar Dati Yahaya, the appellate court held that the two applicants failed to establish their interest in the internal affairs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The court held that the subject of litigation between Dr. Samson Ogah and Governor of Abia state Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, who are members of the PDP, was the primary election of the party conducted on December 8, 2014.
The two applicants, the court held, being members of different political parties, have no locus standi to question the primary election of the PDP.
Justice Yahaya also held that the applicants failed to give circumstantial reasons to sway the court to exercise its judicial discretion in their favour.
Among others, the court held that the two applicants failed to transmit the proceedings of the trial court, the Federal High Court Abuja, to the court of Appeal where their interest was supposed to have been established but merely relied on affidavit depositions to join the legal tussle at appeal court.
The appellate court further held that allowing the applicants to join the dispute will amount to attempting to change the nature of the suit from an intra-party to an inter party which was not an issue before the court.
Describing the two applicants as, meddlesome interlopers, busy bodies, aliens and strangers to the dispute between Ikpeazu and Ogah, the court said they cannot have interest recognizable in law in the domestic affairs of another party.
Justice Yahaya further held that from the documents placed before the court, the applicants were not deprived of anything belonging to them since they did not participate in the PDP primary election adding that nothing has been taken away from them with the outcome of the said election.
“Let me make it clear that the issue at the Federal High Court which gave birth to the pending appeal here, was the primary election of the PDP conducted on December 8, 2014 in which Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu emerged winner and Samson Ogah came second.
“The respondent here (Ogah), based on information made available to him after the primary election, approached the Federal High Court to complain that the winner of the primary election was not qualified to be nominated as a candidate by PDP on the account of the submission of alleged false tax clearance to obtain the PDP nomination and that he (Ogah) sought to be declared the winner of the said primary having scored the second majority lawful votes.
“From the case of the plaintiff, the challenge was the participation of Ikpeazu in the primary election and his subsequent nomination, the entire gamut of his suit, for the purpose of clarity, was the participation of another aspirant in the primary election. In other words, it is a case of an aspirant challenging the participation of another aspirant at a primary election of their political party.
“From the way the case of the plaintiff was coughed, I do not see how the interest of the applicants can come in the primary election of another party except if they want the dispute to metamorphose into inter party dispute.
“In totality, the applicants did not establish any legal rights to be joined as parties in the dispute and as such, they have no locus standi to dabble into PDP affairs. In short, they are meddlesome interlopers and their appeals lacked merit and are hereby dismissed with cost of N50,000 to each of the three respondents.
A Federal High Court had on June 27 nullified Ikpeazu’s election after holding that he submitted false information regarding his tax clearance certificate.
Justice Okon Abang also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue Samson Ogah a certificate of return.
The main appeal was adjourned to August 9th for hearing. The court said it would hear all applications and the main appeal together.
In his notice of appeal filed by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN the Abia state governor raised five grounds of appeal upon which he asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment and orders of the high court.
The governor said that the Federal High Court lacked the power to order him to vacate the seat of Abia State Governor.
The notice of appeal reads: “The trial judge erred in law when he ordered as a consequential order that the appellant vacates his office as the Governor of Abia state immediately when there was no jurisdiction in the Federal High Court to remove, vacate the occupier of the office of the governor of a state or order the removal of such officer after the unsuccessful challenge of the result of the election at the Tribunal and swearing in of the appellant as the governor.”
The governor said that the only power, authority and order exercisable by the Federal High Court was to disqualify the candidate from contesting the election based on section 31(6) of the Electoral Act 2010.
Ikpeazu also faulted the judge when he held that he did not pay his tax for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013, at when due, when he was a public officer whose tax deduction was under Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme where tax deductions were from the source of his monthly salary by the tax authorities who issued all the tax receipts and certificates.
He also said that the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue Services that issued him with the tax certificates had not declared the certificates forged and that the trial court did not invite the issuing authorities to give evidence in the course of the trial.
Ikpeazu said that the plaintiff Dr Samson Udechukwu Ogah was not a staff of the Abia Board of Internal Revenue and did not any staff of the board to testify that the tax certificates were forged.
He accused the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang of violating his right to fair hearing by embarking on judicial investigation without giving him (Ikepazu) the opportunity to address the court on the issue.
The notice of appeal also states: “The learned trial judge erred in law when he held that the appellant presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission by his ingenious meticulous study and investigation of documents filed in courts in the recess of his chambers and thereby violated the right of the appellant to fair hearing.”
The governor said that the judge had no duty to investigate the contents of documents dumped on the court in the recess of his chambers with a view to finding for the plaintiff.
“The decision of the judge which arose from the judicial investigation without opportunity to the appellant violated the appellant’s right to fair hearing”, the governor said.
Ikepazu also rejected the decision of the high court declaring him unqualified to be nominated as the primary election conducted by his party because false information was supplied to INEC.
According to him, INEC Form CF001 which the judge relied on was not one of the grounds of qualification to contest the primary election of PDP.
He said that the judge misconceived the presented by the parties and thereby arrived at a wrong conclusion which occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice.
Meanwhile, the governor’s party, the PDP has also rejected the judgment and filed a separate appeal.
The party said that the trial court erred in law when it held that it had jurisdiction to hear the suit which was on whether section 24 (f) of the 1999 constitution was complied with.
It said: “The honourable trial court misdirected itself when it construed the provisions of the PDP constitution to the detriment of the appellant without giving the appellant a chance to be heard and thereby occasioned miscarriage of justice.”
In the particulars of the error, the appellant said Ukeagbara and Mba being “the 1st and 2nd respondents in the appeal did not pray the trial court to construe the provisions of the PDP constitution.
“No evidence was led that the said Uche Sampson Ogah participated in the 2015 Abia State gubernatorial elections yet the trial court declared him as winner of the said elections contrary to the express provisions of section 141 of the Electoral Act.”
The PDP urged the Court of Appeal for “an order setting aside the judgment of the Federal High Court of Nigeria in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/10862014 delivered on the 27th day of June, 2016.”
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