Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
One of the justices of the Supreme Court on the panel hearing the appeals that emanated from the Court of Appeal judgment in the Abia State governorship election tussle, Justice Amina Augie, yesterday withdrew from the matter.
Augie said she was withdrawing from the matter in view of the allegation of bias levelled against her by one of the parties in the appeal.
According to her, she cannot sit on the panel hearing two of the appeals numbers 10 filed by Samson Ogah as well as the one filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the grounds that there was a resentment by one of the parties in the appeal,
She said the party had accused her of not properly constituting the four-member panel of justices of the Court of Appeal that heard the petition challenging the election of Okezie Ikpeazu as governor of Abia State in Owerri, the Imo State capital, when she was the presiding justice at the division.
On that note, the five-member of justices of the Supreme Court hearing the appeals adjourned the matter to a date that will be communicated to all the parties in the matter.
Justices Bode Rhodes Vivour who presided over the panel said once a judge is accused of bias in any case, the ideal thing to do was to withdraw from the matter.
He said a new panel would be reconstituted to hear the appeals.
Vivow promised to contact the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, to get a date that will not be too far so as to dispense with the appeal as soon as possible.
Earlier, the court had struck out an application dated December 30, 2016, filed by Friday Nwosu, through his counsel, A. C Ozioko on the grounds that the “application appeared to be partially overtaken by event.”
The said application had prayed the court to hear and determine the appeal based on the appellant’s brief only.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had in August last year upturned the judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja which sacked Ikpeazu from office as governor of Abia State.
The court, in a unanimous decision vacated the June 27, 2016 judgment of Justice Abang.
The Appeal Court held that Abang erred in law and occasioned a miscarriage of justice against Ikpeazu.
Justice Helen Ogunwumiju who delivered the lead judgment, held that Justice Abang “committed a grave violence against one of the pillars of justice” relating to fair hearing.
The court said Justice Abang placed the law on its head when he directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue fresh Certificate of Return to Ogah.
While upholding Ikpeazu’s appeal, the court awarded N100,000 cost against Ogah and resolved all the five issues raised in the appeal in favour of Ikpeazu.
She held that the judgment of Justice Abang was grossly erroneous because it was based on inadequacy of tax receipts that could not be visited on the appellant (Ikpeazu) and added that, “after reading through the judgment several
times, I was amazed at how the trial Judge arrived at his conclusion of perjury against the appellant when there was no evidence of forgery against him.”