Re: Recent Court of Appeal Judgement In Appeal Filed By Alex Otti Against Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu—Matter ArisingFeatured, Latest News, Letters/Rejoinders, News Thursday, January 7th, 2016
The attention of the office of The Honourable Attorney – General & Commissioner for Justice, Abia State has been drawn to the series of comments and reactions from various political divides, interested parties and the general public over the decision of the Five (5) man Appeal panel that presided over the Appeal filed by Alex Otti of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Party against the victory of Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at both the April 2015 polls and at the Election Petition Tribunal which sat in Umuahia.
The recent Court of Appeal Judgment which upturned Dr. Ikpeazu’s victory naturally should elicit a lot of attention, considering the upset occasioned by that judgment in the scheme of things in Abia State.
While some comments on the said Judgment bother on its propriety or otherwise, others bother on suggestions that the incumbent Governor should vacate his seat for the Court of Appeal declared winner immediately.
There are further suggestions and/or speculations that the Chief Judge of Abia State and/or the President of the Customary Court of Appeal have been approached to swear – in Alex Otti of APGA as Governor of the State in line with the said Court of Appeal Judgment.
I consider it proper as the Chief Law officer of the State to educate and/or proffer an opinion on the legal issues that have been thrown up and presently dominating public discourse in the State and our Nation as it relates to the Judgment in issue.
Let me without heed, state that the propriety or otherwise of the Judgment of the Court of Appeal is a matter specifically reserved by statute for the apex Court of the land i.e the Supreme Court.
This however does not preclude lawyers who are seized of the facts of the case from making comments as it suits their fancy. However, such comments I dare say are merely academic, as only the Supreme Court has the power to evaluate the Judgment and come to a final decision on the matter which decision would be made known to the public within Sixty (60) days from the day of the Court of Appeal Judgment.
The other issue of swearing in Alex Otti of APGA bothers in the realm of clownishness and comedy.
Our country Nigeria is a Nation State with full blown democracy which is characterized by laws and regulations guiding or regulating the affairs of State.
All matters and issues relating to the conduct of elections in our country including Abia State are regulated by statutes; the relevant statutes in this case are the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
Election matters for the Governorship are statutorily handled by Three (3) tiers of Courts i.e Election Petition Tribunal consisting of a panel of Three (3) Judges, The Election Appeal Tribunal consisting of Five (5) Justices of the Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court where a panel of Seven (7) Justices of that apex Court will have a final say.
The case between Alex Otti of APGA and Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu of PDP has only been attended to at the Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal; the final decision of the Supreme Court on the matter still being awaited.
Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu who is presently the occupier of the seat of Governor of Abia State has a statutory period of Fourteen (14) days from the day of the Judgment of the Court of Appeal to file his Appeal at the Supreme Court. Furthermore, Section 143 (1) & (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) avails the incumbent occupier of the seat – in this case Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu – Twenty – One (21) days to file an Appeal, and, within this period of Twenty – One (21) days the occupant statutorily remains in office notwithstanding the decision of the Election Petition Tribunal or any Court including the Court of Appeal.
For emphasis and clarity, it may be apt to reproduce verbatim the provisions of the aforementioned Sections of the Electoral Act:
(1) – ” If the Election Tribunal or the Court, as the case may be, determines that a candidate returned as elected was not validly elected, then if notice of appeal against that decision is given within 21 days from the date of the decision, the candidate returned as elected shall, notwithstanding the contrary decision of the Election Tribunal or Court, remain in Office pending the determination of the appeal”.
(2) – ” If the Election Tribunal or the Court, as the case may be, determines that a candidate returned as elected was not validly elected, the candidate returned as elected shall, notwithstanding the contrary decision of the Election Tribunal or the Court, remain in office pending the expiration of the period of 21days within which an Appeal may be brought”.
From the above glaring and unequivocal provisions of the Electoral Act, it is very clear that despite the Court of Appeal Judgment declaring Alex Otti elected, Dr. Ikpeazu remains the Governor of this State pending the exercise of his right of Appeal as provided and thereafter until the Supreme Court gives a final verdict on his Appeal.
The speculation of swearing – in Alex Otti on the strength of the Court of Appeal Judgment is not only without precedent but equally a violation of the Laws of our country.
Any contemplation or attempt by any person or persons including any Judicial Officer to swear – in Alex Otti is both an invitation of anarchy to Abia State and an act of treasonable felony attracting severe sanctions in Law.
Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu remains the duly elected Governor of Abia State and can only be removed through the due process of the Law and not by any means unknown to the Laws of this country as being speculated.
Abia State is not the only State where election results have been upturned by our Courts but the elected occupiers of such political office or offices remain on seat until the final decision of the last Court statutorily empowered to determine cases emanating from the election.
Citizens of Abia State and the general public are therefore advised to take heed of the considered legal opinion proffered herein, remain Law abiding and go about their legitimate business whilst awaiting the final decision of the Supreme Court in the matter of the Governorship seat of our State.
DATED THIS 5TH DAY OF JANUARY, 2016
Umeh Kalu Esq, Hon. Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice
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