The Court of Appeal, Abuja division yesterday reserved judgments in six appeals filed against two judgments of the Federal High Court, Abuja sacking Governor Victor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State.
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja in his June 27 judgment on suits filed by Samson Ogah and Obasi Ekeagbala, voided Ikpeazu’s election because he made false claims in his tax information submitted to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) preparatory to its December 8, 2014 primary.
The appellate court reserved judgments after the parties made their final submissions and adopted their briefs of argument.
The appeals included three filed by Ikpeazu marked: CA/A/390/2016, CA/A/ 390D and CA/A/406/2016
There were two appeals by the PDP marked; CA/A/390A and CA/A/406A and the one marked: CA/A/390B by Friday Nwosu, a PDP governorship aspirant, who came fifth in the primary. His suit against Ikpeazu was dismissed by the Federal High Court in Umuahia for failure to prove the allegation of forgery on which he premised his case.
Ikpeazu, represented by a team of 37 lawyers including eight Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), led by Chief Wole Olanipekun faulted Justice Abang’s judgments. He urged the court to allow his appeals and set aside the judgments.
In the appeal marked: CA/A/390D/2016, Ikpeazu urged the court to set aside the post-judgement ruling by Justice Abang, in which he held among others that a trial court could still exercise jurisdiction in a case after an appeal against its final judgment had been entered at the Court of Appeal and record of appeal compiled.
The judge had declined to stay action on the case on being informed by Olanipekun that his client’s appeals against his judgments had been entered, given an appeal number and record of appeal transmitted to the appeal court.
Justice Abang, in the ruling, held that Order 4 Rule 11 of the Court of Appeal Rules cited by Olanipekun was only applicable in interlocutory judgments, noting that in the case of a final judgement, there was nothing left to be preserved by asking the trial court to stay action.
Yesterday, Olanpekun urged the court to make a definite pronouncement on the issue, noting that Justice Abang, by his ruling, has attempted to alter the long held tradition of the court that once an appeal is entered at a court of higher jurisdiction, the lower court ceases to exercise jurisdiction.
The two appeals by the PDP were against the judgments of the Federal High Court. Represented by a team of lawyers including Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), Joseph Nwobike (SAN) and Paul Ananaba (SAN), the party faulted the trial court’s reasons for voiding Ikpeazu’s election and ordering the issuance of certificate of return to Ogah.
Ikpeazu, who led the legal team, adopted his client’s briefs of arguments on both appeals and their responses to some of the other appeals. He argued that the conclusion of the trial court was wrong because the possession of tax receipts do not form the basis of qualification or disqualification under Sections 177 and 182 of the Constitution.
Ikpeazu urged the court to allow the PDP appeals and set aside the judgments of the lower court.
Adopting Nwosu’s briefs of argument, his lawyer, J. C. Idoko urged the court to set aside the judgement in Ogah’s case because that it was based on abuse of court process. He said Ogah abused court process when he filed the suit at the trial court when a similar one had been filed by his client, with Ogah as a party.
Idoko urged the court to set aside the judgment and allow his client’s appeal, including making Nwosu the governor of Abia State having disqualified Ikpeazu and Ogah.
Ogah equally paraded a team of lawyers, which included Alex Iziyon (SAN), Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN) and Femi Falana (SAN). Iziyon, who spoke for the team, urged the court to dismiss all the appeals.
On Ikpeazu’s appeals, Iziyon argued that justice Abang was right when it held that the governor was not qualified to stand for election having breached the provision of his party’s guidelines.
He insisted that his client’s case was not based on forgery, but on false information, which Ikpeazu submitted to his party to contest its primary, and which the party included in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Form CF001.
Iziyon, who urged the court to also dismiss PDP’s appeals, wondered why it was uncomfortable with the lower court’s judgments, having admitted in one of its affidavits that it erroneously included the false tax documents in the Form CF 001.