The Supreme Court on Friday gave the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2015 election in Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti, the go ahead to appeal against judgments contesting the validity of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s election.
In granting his application to appeal, the Supreme Court unanimously held that his (Otti) right to fair hearing as provided under section 36 of the 1999 constitution is inviolable and as such cannot be denied on the grounds of technicalities.
Otti and his political platform had approached the apex court to question the decision of the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal,refusing his application to appeal against the earlier judgments of a Federal High Court in Abuja, delivered by Justice Okon Abang on June 27, 2016, which sacked Ikpeazu.
In the said judgment, Justice Okon Abang ordered governor Ikpeazu to vacate office over alleged falsehood and discrepancies in his tax documents attached to Form CF001 which he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission nominating him as the PDP governorship candidate in the 2015 election.
Although Dr. Otti filed an application seeking to appeal the judgment of Justice Abang, the Court of Appeal in its ruling delivered last year, held that Otti could not file an appeal against the judgments of the Federal High Court on the grounds that he was not a party in the originating suits and that the matter was an intra-party affair of the Peoples Democratic Party.
It was after this that Otti approached the Supreme Court seeking it’s leave to join the appeal at the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, in its ruling delivered today, granted his application and gave him leave to commence his appeal against the judgments of the Court of Appeal.
Justice Clara Bala Ogunbiyi who delivered the lead judgment of the Supreme Court, agreed that the Otti have the constitutional right to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal.
She cited some case laws to show that “a party should never be denied the right of appeal if he satisfies the conditions for appeal.”
The court also held that “when the law lays down a condition that leave is to be sought and obtained before filling grounds of appeal on mixed law and facts, this does not give a reason for exploitation by the opposite party in making it difficult for the applicant to access the discretion of court.”
Justice Ogunbiyi further held that the applications by Otti and his political platform (APGA), boarders squarely on their right to be heard on a case that affects their interest.
Besides, Justice Ogunbiyi re-iterated the position of the apex court that courts are to do substantial Justice without due regard to technicalities.
“The appellate court is also enjoined not to prejudice an interlocutory appeal issues arising in a pending substantive appeal.”
The court disagreed with Dr. Samson Ogah that the activation of the provisions of section 22 of the Supreme Court Act will be nothing other than an academic exercise, given the nature of the application and the Justice it seeks to serve.
Justice Ogunbiyi further held that given the merit of the application, it will defeat the cause of justice to fetter the right of access to the court by way of declining to grant an application of this nature.
“The principle had long been laid down that the path to tread should be that of justice as against technicality. Such application should not be opposed for the sake of either doing so or because the opponent feels threatened. The overriding consideration must always be Justice and fairness.”
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal had in its judgments nullified the two judgments of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which on June 27, 2016 removed Ikpeazu as Governor of Abia State.