Supreme Court nullifies Appeal Court's decision on Okorocha

By The Citizen

The Supreme Court on Friday held that the Court of Appeal was wrong in joining former Imo governor Ikedi Ohakim as a party in the suit brought by Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume.

Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo had challenged the joinder of Ikedi as a party in the suit.

The apex court, in a unanimous judgment, held that the Appeal Court was wrong in granting leave to join the People's Democratic Party candidate, ex-Imo Gov Ikedi Ohakim, in the appeal.

Mr Niyi Akintola, SAN, Okorocha's counsel, had in his appeal application joined as first respondents, the Peoples' Democratic Party, PDP and Ohakim, in the suit.

Others are the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and its candidate, Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume, who had earlier challenged Okorocha's election up to the Supreme Court and lost as second and third respondents, respectively.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, served as fourth and fifth respondents, respectively.

Ararume had earlier lost to Okorocha at Owerri Federal High Court before approaching the Appeal Court, which joined Ohakim in the suit.

Delivering judgment, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, who led five other justices of the Supreme Court, upturned the ruling of the Court of Appeal, describing it as 'an abuse of court process'.

Ogunbiyi also awarded a cost of N100, 000 against each of the first, third and fourth respondents in the matter.

'The ruling of the Court of Appeal, Owerri Judicial Division, delivered on Oct. 19, 2012, is hereby set aside as an abuse of court process.

'The two issues are resolved in favour of the appellant and the appeal in the circumstance is allowed.

'I make an order of N100, 000 fine in favour of the appellant against each of the 1st, 3rd and 4th respondents,'' Ogunbiyi said.

The court described the leave granted by the Appeal Court to the respondents as tantamount to abuse and attempts to re-litigate a case that had been decided by the Supreme Court.

'The Court of Appeal was clearly wrong by raising the hope of resuscitating the belated case; the discretion exercised by the lower court was certainly not judicial and judicious.

'The first respondent, and also his comrades/those in his camp have themselves to blame and must not escape the wrath of the hammer for being in utter abuse of court process,'' the apex court ruled.

Akintola had earlier in his submission, said the issues being raised by Ohakim had been dealt with by the Supreme Court in its judgment of March 2, 2012 in Suit No. SC/17/2012, won by Okorocha.

He, therefore, prayed the court to uphold his client's appeal and strike out the leave granted by the Appeal Court to join Ohakim in the suit.

'Before the lower court, we exhibited the judgment of this court; we also exhibited the pleadings at the tribunal, the reliefs that were sought at the tribunal up to the Supreme Court.

'We are saying that those reliefs have been litigated on up to the Supreme Court.

'What we are saying is, does the court have jurisdiction, the question is what purpose will the leave serve against the judgment of this court?'

'The application before the lower court was an abuse of court process. I urge the court to overrule the objection of Ohakim and hold that the appeal is competent and allow the appeal,'' he said.

Mr Wole Olanipekun, SAN, counsel to the first respondent, in his response had urged the court to dismiss Okorocha's appeal, arguing that the appellants were guilty of abuse of court process.

'They are the people that are abusing the processes of this court in a most crass manner because the lower court has not gone into the merits of the matter.

'They are referring the court to the decision of this court in Okorocha and PDP when the lower court has not gone into the matter.

'This court can only assume jurisdiction to hear an appeal against the decision of the lower court,'' he said. (NAN)