Court Reserves Judgment on Appeals Seeking to Overturn Ruling on Ikpeazu’s Removal

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•Shuts out Sherrif’s faction

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Court of Appeal in Abuja has reserved final judgment in multiple appeals filed by the Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other interested parties seeking to overturn the judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja which sacked Ikpeazu as governor.

A five-man panel of justices of the court led by Justice Morenike Ogunwumiju adjourned the matter for judgment after it heard six separate appeals.

The hearing of the appeal which lasted till 5p.m., witnessed several drama including the attempt by the Ali Modu Sherrif’s faction of the PDP to come in but was rebuffed by the court.

Justice Ogunwumiju had drawn the   attention of the court to a letter from the Sheriff-led faction of the PDP that sought to withdraw the appeal.
The said letter was signed by the Deputy National Legal Adviser of the party, Bashir Maidugu.

After hearing from the parties, including Mr. Olagoke Fakunle (SAN) who said he appeared for the PDP, the court decided that the Sheriff’s group had no business in the appeal.
“Fakunle what exactly have you said? There are six appeals before this court which we must hear today. And we are going ahead with the appeals already filed. Do not disrupt this court again. You can go on appeal if you so wish,” the judge told the lawyer who was from Sheriff’s camp of the PDP.

Instead the court recognised Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) as the counsel to PDP and told others who claimed to be representing the PDP not to interrupt the hearing. Ikpeazu represented the party while the case was at the Federal High Court.

Also during the hearing, INEC withdrew its appeal against the high court judgment.
Withdrawing the commission’s brief of argument already filed, INEC lawyer, Mr. Tanimu Inua, told the court that the commission was not urging the court for any order.
When the court asked what relief the commission was seeking, Inua said that INEC would abide by the decision of the court.

The presiding Justice Ogunwumiju had asked the INEC’s lawyer: “To what end is your brief that does not urge anything? What do you urge? You must urge something or you withdraw your brief. You can’t come here to file a brief without asking for something. You must urge for something or you withdraw your brief and keep quit.”

 Justice Abang had on June 27, ordered Governor Ikpeazu to immediately vacate the governorship seat, even as he directed INEC to issue Certificate of Return to Mr. Sampson Ogah who came second in the PDP primaries conducted in Abia State on December 8, 2014.
Justice Abang said he was satisfied that Governor Ikpeazu perjured by giving false information in the Form CF001 and documents accompanying it, which he submitted to both PDP and the INEC.

Both Governor Ikpeazu and PDP through their respective team of lawyers, urged the appellate court to set-aside the high court judgment which they said had occasioned a huge miscarriage of justice.

Arguing his appeal, Governor Ikpeazu, through his lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), insisted that Justice Abang acted beyond his powers and misdirected himself in law.

He said: “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.”