The Supreme Court on Friday granted leave to Alex Oti of APGA to be joined as an interested party to challenge the election of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu as governor of Abia in the longest gubernatorial case in Nigeria’s recent history.
Justice Clara Ogunbiyi led four other justices to arrive at the unanimous decision.
“The appellant applicant appeal challenging the Aug.5, 2016 judgment of the lower court has merit.
“The appeal is predicated on grounds of mixed law and facts and therefore, this court is compelled to grant it in the interest of justice.
“In the circumstance, the Aug.5, 2016 decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which refused to grant the applicant the permission to be joined in the pending Abia governorship SUIT is set aside.
“The prayer of the appellant urging this court consider his appeal against Gov. Ikpeazu Okezie is hereby deemed as filed before this court,’’ she said.
Ogubiyi also held that granting this leave for the applicant to appeal the decision of the lower court on the matter did not mean that the appeal could succeed.
“The law has established that once an application is challenging a matter on mixed law and facts, justice demands that he or she must be heard,’’ she said.
Justice Dati Yahaya, who presided over the case at the lower court, held that Oti failed to establish his interest in the internal affairs of the PDP.
The court held that the subject of litigation between Dr Samson Ogah and Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who were all members of the PDP, was the primary election of the party conducted on Dec. 8, 2014.
The applicant, the court held, being member of APGA had no locus standi to question the primary election of the PDP.
Yahaya also held that the applicant failed to give circumstantial reasons to sway the court to exercise its judicial discretion in his favour.
Among others, the court held that the applicant failed to transmit the proceedings of the trial court to the Court of Appeal, where his interest was supposed to be established.
According to the judge, Oti merely relied on affidavit depositions.
The appellate court further held that allowing the applicant to join the dispute would amount to attempt to change the NATURE of the suit from an intra-party to an inter party tussle.
Oti had called for his enthronement as governor of Abia, when Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court removed Ikpeazu from office.
Abang had in the Oct.29, 2016 judgment made a consequential order returning Ogah as the governor.
However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja unturned that decision by re-affirming Ikpeazu’s election.
Mr Kanu Agabi (SAN), counsel to the governor, who spoke with newsmen after the session, said Oti had no chance in the ongoing appeals against his client.
He said the decision of the Court of Appeal that re-affirmed Ikpeazu as governor had foreclosed his chances of making anything out of the SUIT.
“This tussle is strictly an intra-party matter. Oti is not a member of the PDP, only Ogah is in contention. In any case, the apex court is prepared to hear him,’’ he said.