Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of Federal High Court has warned lawyers not to engage in unethical conducts that would occasion delay in the hearing and determination of the suit filed by the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over his certificate of return.
Justice Okon Abang issued the warning while granting an application by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to be joined in the suit as the 8th defendant.
The judge who expressed the determination of the court to deal with the case expeditiously, said his court would not entertain frivolous application’s for adjournments, especially those seeking for extension of time with respect to procedural processes.
Although, counsel to the governor, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), had vehemently opposed the application by the PDP on the grounds that it was not a necessary party in the suit, Justice Abang in his ruling said it was safer and neater to allow the party to participate in the suit.
Justice Abang who rooted his decision on the principles of fair hearing, held that “the right to fair hearing takes precedent over all other issues.”
Besides, the court held, “it is safer and neater to join PDP whether it is a necessary party or not because the decision reached by the court no matter how well grounded will become a nullity, and I don’t want to labour in vain.”
He held further: ” I have considered the well articulated and persuasive arguments by respective counsel in this suit and the judicial authorities cited by them.
“I am satisfied that this is a deserving case to join PDP. To decide otherwise will amount to denial of fair hearing and any decision reached by the court will be a nullity.
“The application by the PDP succeed only in part. Prayer 1 and 4 are incompetent and are hereby struck out.
“Prayer 2 and 3 succeed and it is hereby ordered that PDP be join in the suit as the 8th defendant.
“The plaintiff shall within two days from today, file further amended originating summons reflecting the joinder and should only comply with Order 17(6) of the rules of this court.
“Since counsel to other defendants did not opposed the joinder application, upon filling the amended originating summons by the plaintiff, the 1st to 8th defendants shall apply to the registrar of the court to get the Certified True Copies (CTC) of the amended originating summons.
“This order is made in other to save time and avoid issue of service. The court is departing from the provision of order 17 Rule (5) as the defendants are at liberty to apply for the originating summons on their own.
“As regard the 8th defendant, it shall within two days apply and obtained Certified True Copies of the amended originating summons from the registrar and react to it if need be.
“Upon service by the 8th defendant, the plaintiff is at liberty to respond even a day.”
Justice Abang explained that the abridgment of time by the court by Order 13 Rule 35(15) is made as a consequential order to enable the court to do justice in the matter “effectively and effectually.”
“This court will not grant frivolous applications for adjournments and will not extend time for the procedural processes. The court shall hear and determine this case within reasonable time,” Justice Abang ruled.
In the said suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/296/2019, filed by his counsel, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), the governor is seeking the court order compelling the INEC to issue him a certificate of return as the validly elected senator for Imo West Senatorial District.
Before Justice Abang, the PDP had in a motion filed by its counsel, Stanley Imo, prayed the court for an order extending the time within which it may apply to be joined in the suit.
An order of court joining the PDP as the 8th defendants in the suit as well as an order directing the plaintiff/respondent to amend his originating processes and other subsequent processes issued in the suit in order to reflect the joinder of PDP as the 8th defendant in this suit.
The party in its motion brought pursuant to Order 9 Rule 25 further prayed the court for an order directing that all originating processes in the suit be served on it as the 8th defendant in this suit.
But while other counsels in the matter, Mrs. Wendy Kuku for INEC, N. A. Nnwuchi (SAN) for Jones Onyeriri, Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu for Senator Osita Izunaso and others did not opposed the request by the PDP, Okorocha’s counsel, Ogunwumiju, raised objections to it.