The Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri on Thursday dismissed two separate but similar appeals brought to it by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Dr. Alex Otti and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
The appeals originated from a decision of the Abia State Governorship Election Tribunal, sitting in Umuahia, PDP and the Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu this morning failed in their bid to get the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri, capital of neighbouring Imo State, to over-rule the Abia State Governorship Election Tribunal on the procedures to adopt in the on-going legal tussle between him and Dr. Alex Otti of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
In a unanimous judgment of a five-member panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, the Court, which earlier struck out 3 out of the 4 issues raised by PDP before dismissing the appeal, agreed that the entire appeal is premature as same is based on complaint against a ruling which the tribunal has not yet delivered. It further stated that there is no infringement of the right to fair hearing of the appellant as they were rightly heard by the Trial Tribunal before ruling was adjourned within the 180 days stipulated by the constitution.
Addressing newsmen at the end of the judgment, which lasted for about one hour, Counsel to Dr. Alex Otti and APGA, Nwala Chukwudi Oracle Esq, said that what the Court of Appeal did today was giving effect to and affirming the sanctity of Paragraph 12 (5) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act.
Otti’s counsel remarked also that the Court of Appeal could not have gone any other way than to confirm that the Trial Tribunal has powers to take all preliminary motions along with the substantive petition. ‘’As a matter of fact, Paragraph 12 (5) is intended to reflect the sui generis nature of election matters. The spirit and intendment of that paragraph is to suppress the mischief of delaying the Election Petition proceeding by ensuring that preliminary objections, whether on jurisdiction or not, raised in the course of the proceedings, did not derail the determination of the merit of a case by undue and unwarranted delays occasioned by preliminary objections.
Oracle further said “as a matter of fact, the tribunal is under a duty to comply with the provisions of paragraph 12(5), when objections are raised against the hearing of a petition.’’
In its judgment, the Appeal Court, relying on the case of Aregbesola v Omisore emphasized that “When paragraph 53(5) was in being, paragraph 12(5) came in on the 29th October, 2010 like a Trojan Horse. Paragraph 53(5) itself came into effect on 20th August, 2010. Paragraph 12(5) was undoubtedly enacted for a purpose. That purpose was to enable election petition tribunals to handle election petitions without undue reliance on technicalities. Although paragraph 53(5) was not repealed, the law is that the provisions of the later enactment amend the earlier so far as necessary to remove the inconsistency between them’.
Earlier on 3rd of September, the same Court of Appeal had dismissed a similar suit brought to it by Dr. Victor Okezie Ikpeazu against Dr. Alex Otti on the same basis that it lacked merit and was a mere academic exercise.
Meanwhile, the case at the Abia tribunal had been adjourned to October 14, 2015 for the adoption of final written addresses of the parties.