*Dashes his hopes of replacing Ikpeazu
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Court of Appeal in Abuja, yesterday, dashed the hope of governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in Abia state, Dr. Alex Otti, to benefit from the High Court judgment that sacked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu from office.
In a unanimous decision, a five-man panel of justices of the appellate held that Otti and his party lacked the locus standi to be joined as interested parties in appeal that arose from verdict of the lower court.
The court noted that gamut of the dispute that was resolved by trial Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on June 27, bordered on qualification or otherwise of Ikpeazu to participate in the governorship primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, held on December 8, 2014.
It held that since the issue related to qualification of candidates to be nominated or sponsored by the PDP, neither Otti nor APGA had the legal right to meddle in an inter-party affair of another political party.
The appellate court described Otti as:“A meddlesome interloper and busy-body”, stressing that under section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010; only those that participated in the PDP primary could question the outcome.
“The applicant who is a member of another political party has no locus standi to query the process of nomination of another party.
“He is merely a busy body who has no locus to appeal against the whole decision of the lower court regarding the governo-rship primary election conducted by the 2nd Respondent on December 8, 2014.
“The applicants (Otti and APGA) had the onus to show the interest they have and how the judgement of the lower court adversely affected them.
“The applicants do not have sufficient legal grievance. They only have general interest which is equal to that of any other candidate that participated at the election.
“They are neither necessary nor desirable parties in this appeal. It is left for the 1st and 3rd Respondents ((Ogah and Ikpeazu) to slug it out.
“Moreover, the applicants could not have been joined as an interested party by the lower court”.
The appellate court further held that Otti and APGA did not place enough materials for it to judicially and judiciously exercise discretion in their favour in line with section 243 of the constitution.
“The applicants have failed to establish any cognizable legal interest to warrant this court to join them as interested party in an inter-party dispute.
“A complete stranger cannot be allowed to meddle the waters of this dispute.
“On the whole, this application lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed with N50, 000 cost to each of the respondents except the 4th Respondent (INEC)”, the court held.
Whereas the lead judgment was prepared by head of the panel, Justice Morenike Ogunwumiju, it was however delivered by Justice A. D. Yahaya.
Otti and APGA had in the motion they filed on July 15, prayed the appellate court for leave to appeal as an interest parties, against the high court judgment that sacked Ikpeazu from office.
Otti said he was not aware of pendency of the suit at the lower court until the verdict was delivered on June 27.
He argued that having secured the 2nd highest number of votes at the 2015 governorship election in Abia state, the judgment of the high court directly affected his interest, especially as it relates to the consequential orders that were made against Ikpeazu.
Placing reliance on section 243 of 1999 Constitution, Otti maintained that Mr. Sampson Ogah who had already been issued fresh Certificate of Return by INEC, has no locus to take over from Ikpeazu as Abia State governor since he did not participate in the election proper.
He contended that going by the high court judgment, PDP had no qualified candidate for the election.
Meanwhile, Justice Yahaya noted that under Order 7 Rule 4 of the Court of Appeal Act, Otti and APGA ought to have firstly filed the joinder application before the lower court.
He said though Otti expressed his intention to rely on record of appeal that was transmitted to the appellate court on July 4, he however sought leave to file his own separate appeal.
He said Otti had in the manner he couched his reliefs, injected fresh issues that were not part of what was determined by the lower court.
Both Ikpeazu and Ogah had vehemently opposed Otti’s bid to be joined in the the substantive appeal which is fixed for hearing on August 9.
The duo, through their respective lawyers, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, and Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, argued that all issues relating to Abia state governorship election had already been settled by the Supreme Court.
They accused Otti of attempting to re-litigate a case he fought and lost at the apex court level.
Similarly, both PDP and one of its gubernatorial aspirant in Abia state who is also laying claim to the governorship seat, Mr. Friday Nwosu, also urged the court to dismiss Otti’s application which they said was not only frivolous, but constituted an abuse of the judicial process.