The Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri has 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 his party. The appeals originated from a decision of the Abia State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Umuahia.
In a unanimous judgment of a five-member panel of Justices, the Court of Appeal, which earlier, struck out three of the four issues raised by PDP before dismissing the appeal, agreed that the entire appeal was premature because it was based on complaint against a ruling, which the tribunal has not yet delivered.
It further stated that there was 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 after the judgment, which lasted for about one hour, counsel to Dr. Otti and APGA, Nwala Chukwudi Oracle, said what the Court of Appeal did was giving effect to, and affirming the sanctity of paragraph 12 (5) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act.
Oracle said 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 insisted that, “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 vs Omisore, emphasized that, “When paragraph 53(5) was in being, paragraph 12(5) came in on October 29, 2010 like a Trojan Horse. Paragraph 53(5) itself came into effect on August 20, 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 Although paragraph 53(5) was not repealed, the law is that the provisions of the later enactment amend the earlier so far as necessary to remove the inconstitency between them.”
The same court had on September 3, dismissed a similar suit brought before 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 trial tribunal has been adjourned to October 14, 2015 for the adoption of final written addresses of the parties. In a telephone interview, a chieftain of APGA, Chief Inem Nwaka, dedicated the victory to the struggle for “the emancipation of the well-meaning people of Abia State” and thanked God for giving Dr. Otti the enablement to redeem Abians.