•Faults PDP, Ohakim’s bids to reopen settled issue • I’ve forgiven my detractors, says governor
Owerri, Imo State capital, erupted in spontaneous jubilation yesterday as the Supreme Court upheld the election of the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
In a judgment yesterday, the court held that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could no longer reopen the case which its candidate, Ohakim Ikedi had unsuccessfully challenged before an election tribunal.
The six-man panel that heard the case berated the Owerri Division of the Court of Appeal for allowing PDP to have a second bite at the cherry when it joined the party in a suit filed by Ifeanyi Ararume, the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria in the governorship election.
Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, who read the lead judgment, advised PDP and Ohakim to abide by their fate and hope for a better political future instead of making futile attempt at using the back door to have a revisit to their case which had been finished with.
Justice Ogunbiyi held that the subject matter which PDP sought to appeal was the same as that which had been finally determined by the Supreme Court by way of an election petition.
She held that the issues which the party wanted to raise at the Court of Appeal were post-election matters justiceable only before an election tribunal.
“This is more so where the time prescribed by law and mandating him (Ohakim) within which to conduct his case had elapsed; providence expects him to abide by his fate and hope for a better political future,” she held.
She further held that by joining PDP to the suit, the Court of Appeal was capable of causing anarchy in the country.
Justice Ogunbiyi noted that the Court of Appeal was aware of the fact that the Supreme Court had decided in finality the legality of the supplementary election held in Imo, after it upheld the decisions of both the Imo State Election Tribunal and the Court of Appeal.
She held that it was illegal and unconstitutional for a candidate to seek to appeal as an interested party a judgment in an election matter after the election in which he was a candidate had held and the time to file petition against same had also lapsed.
“By the provision of section 235 of our constitution, the decision of the Supreme Court is final in gubernatorial election matters.
“The Court of Appeal is therefore without any stretch of imagination duty bound by section 287 of the same constitution to give effect to judgments of this court.
“The implication of the lower court having obliged the application are far reaching, very detrimental and damaging for breaching section 235 of the constitution on finality of the judgment of this court,” Justice Ogunbiyi held.
The court upheld the submission of Okorocha’s lawyer, Chief Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, that the PDP’s proposed grounds of appeal were an indirect way of challenging Okorocha’s election contrary to section 134 of the Electoral Act, 2010 which prescribed the modality of challenging an election petition.
“In other words, with the 1st respondent (PDP) having pursued the petition tooth and nail and lost from the inception at the trial tribunal right through the Court of Appeal and to this court, it cannot surreptitiously, through the back door, by reason of the ruling obtained from the lower court, again have a second revisit to his case.
“The Court of Appeal, by granting the leave in the circumstance at hand with the subject matter having been dealt with finally by this court, had overreacted the constitutional finality inherent in the decision of the Supreme Court and thus also breaching section 235 of the Constitution on the finality of the Supreme Court judgment.
“The quest for power and governance shoul not be without end.
“The court’s, particularly the apex court, which has the duty to give example to all subordinate courts, should be wary against accommodating situations where litigation subsist without end under the guise of do or die attitude which effect would only make nonsense of our entire judiciary and legal system which has specifically put in place measures to check on the unending lethargy of our political ambition.
“The slogan, there must be an end to litigation, should persistently sound loud and clear in our polity.
“This is a matter of public policy which should not create a societal gangrene.”
Justice Ogunbiyi upheld Okorocha’s appeal and order the respondents–the Peoples Democratic Party, Ifeanyi Ararume and the Independent National Electoral Commission–to each pay N100,000 as cost to Okorocha.
The Owerri Division of the Court of Appeal on February 3, 2012 granted leave to PDP to appeal a judgment delivered by a Federal High Court in Owerri, Imo State which had dismissed a suit by Ararume challenging the constitutionality of the supplementary election held in Imo State.
The High Court had dismissed the case on the ground that the subject matter of the suit was a post-election matter.
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Federal High Court, Ararume filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal in Owerri.
While Ararume’ s appeal was pending, the PDP, which sponsored Ohakim, brought an application praying the court for leave to appeal, as an interested party, against the judgment of the Federal High Court.
Although Okorocha vehemently opposed the PDP’s application for leave to appeal, the Court of Appeal allowed PDP’s application and consequently made the PDP a party to the suit.
Okorocha was dissatisfied and immediately appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing among others that the Court of Appeal was wrong in joining PDP to the suit.
Reacting to the judgment yesterday, Okorocha said the judgment was an indication that his mandate was divine.
The Governor who spoke with newsmen at the Government House, Owerri, also said he had forgiven his detractors, adding that it was time for all, irrespective of political and religious affiliations, to join hands to move the state forward.
He said: “I thank God that the age-long case and distraction has finally come to an end. I thank the Judiciary for rising up to the occasion in the defence of our democracy. This administration is a divine mandate and those fighting it are fighting God.
“The Judiciary has has remained a propeller in our democracy with popular rulings and judgment.”
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