Reasons for Judgement given in OKEZIE V OTTI
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
ON FRIDAY, 26TH FEBRUARY, 2016.
APPEAL NO: SC.19/2016
CITATION: SC (2016) 2 LLER 1
Before Their Lordships
MAHMUD MOHAMMED, J.S.C.
IBRAHIM TANKO MUHAMMAD, J.S.C.
SULEIMAN GALADIMA, J.S.C.
OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR, J.S.C.
KUMAI BAYANG AKA’AHS, J.S.C.
KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C.
CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE, J.S.C.
PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP)
1. ALEX OTTI
2. ALL PROGRESSIVES GRAND ALLIANCE (APGA)
3. OKEZIE VICTOR IKPEAZU
4. INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC)
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY GALADIMA, J.S.C.
- After hearing this appeal on Wednesday 3rd February 2016, this Court allowed it and promised to advance its reasons on Monday, 26th February 2016, that is today. Here are my reasons:
- The facts and circumstances of this appeal and those of SC.18/2016 just disposed of today and of the other appeals No SC.22/2016 are the same. It would be needless to repeat the same set of facts which clearly emanated from the events of the Governorship Election conducted in Abia State on 11th and 25th April, 2 15. It would suffice to adopt the sequence of events set outabout in SC.18/2016.
- I may only emphasize the fact that the 3rd Respondent who was sponsored by the Appellant herein had his appeal allowed in SC. 8/2016. The Appellant herein is equally not satisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal and therefore lodged this appeal filing its Notice of Appeal on 8th January, 2016 containing 17 Grounds of Appeal complaining essentially on reliance on Exhibit PWC2 – the Card Reader Report – to cancel the result of the election.
- In the Appellant’s brief settled by its Senior Counsel DR. ONYECHI IKPEAZU, SAN, 4 issues are formulated for the determinations of this appeal as follows:1. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were wrong when they relied on Exhibit PWC2 the Card Reader Report – to cancel the result of the election in OSISIOMA, ISIALA NGWA and OBINGWA Local Government Areas of Abia State on the basis that the result of the election in the three (3) Local Government Areas was vitiated by over-voting. [Grounds IV and. V.]2. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were wrong when they returned the 1st Respondent as the duly elected candidate after cancellation of the results in OSISOMA, ISIALA NGWA and OBINGWA Local Government Areas of Abia State. [Ground I, II, III, and VI.]3. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were wrong when in evaluating evidence led by the 1st and 2nd Respondents they held that the 1st and 2nd Respondents proved the allegations of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). [Grounds VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII and. XIII]
4. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were wrong when they restored reliefs 3 and 4 and paragraphs 21, 30(a) and 48 struck out by the Tribunal. [Grounds XIV, XV, XVI and XVII]
- In the brief of argument of the 1st and 2nd Respondents settled by their Senior Counsel, CHIEF AKIN OLUJINMI, SAN, 4 issues from the Appellants 17 grounds of Appeal are as follows:”(i) Whether having regard to the materials on record, the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were not right in their decision concerning the election in the disputed three local governments of Osisioma Ngwa, Isiala Ngwa and Obingwa. [Covers grounds IV and V](ii) Whether in the light of the pleading and the evidence before the lower Court, Learned Justices of the lower Court were wrong in returning the 1st respondent as the duly elected candidate in the Abia State Governorship election conducted on 11th and 25th April, 2016. [Covers grounds I, II, III and VI.](iii) Whether the learned Justices of the lower Court did not give proper consideration to the evidence on record in arriving at their conclusion that the 1st and 2nd Respondents proved the allegations of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended having regard to the materials on record, on the learned Justices of the lower Court. [Covers grounds VII, VIII, IX, X, XII and XIII.]
(iv) Whether the lower Court was, on the materials before the Court, wrong in restoring reliefs 3 and 4 and paragraphs 21, 30(a) and 48 erroneously struck out by the Tribunal. [Covers grounds XIV, XV, XVI and XVII.]
- In view of my very robust and elaborate reasons set out SC.18/2016 on the error of the Court below placing reliance on Exhibit PWC2 – the Card Reader Report to cancel the result of the elections in OSISIOMA, OBINGWA and ISIALA NGWA Local Government Areas of Abia State on the basis that the result of the election in those 3 L.G.A. was vitiated by over-voting. I adopt my decision on the said Exhibit PWC2 in SC.18/2016 as my humble view on the same issue in this appeal. For the umpteenth time the recent decision on the point in MAHMUD ALIYU SHINKAFI & ANOR V. ABDUL-AZEEZ ABUBAKAR YARI & ORS, unreported SC.9O7 /2016 delivered on 8th January,2016, has settled the issue beyond resurrection.
- Other 3 issues namely, on allegation of non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and the issue of restoration of reliefs 3 and 4 and paragraphs 21, 30(a) and 48 struck out by the trial Tribunal have been the subject of my lengthy discourse and determination of issues 7 of the Appellant and issue(vii)
raised by the 1st and 2nd Respondents in their respective briefs of argument in SC 18/2016.
- All the issues being raised in this appeal were painstakingly considered and resolved in favour of the Appellant in SC.18/2016 who is now the 3rd Respondent in this appeal. I adopt my reasons in SC 18/2016, allow this appeal and vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on 31st December, 2015 and effectually restore the judgment of the trial Tribunal that affirmed the INEC’s declaration and due return of the 3rd espondent herein OKEZIE VICTOR IKPEMU as the Governor of ABIA STATE.
- Parties to bear their costs.
- MAHMUD MOHAMMED, J.S.C.: I have had before now, a privilege to read in draft the Reasons For Judgment just delivered by my learned brother Galadima. JSC, for allowing these appeal on Wednesday 3rd February 2016. I completely agree with these reasons and I adopt them as mine. I have nothing useful to add.
- TANKO MUHAMMED, J.S.C.: When this appeal was heard on Wednesday, 3rd of February, 2016. my learned brother Galadima, JSC, delivered the lead conclusion (Judgment) wherein he allowed the appeal: set aside the decision of the Court below and restored the decision of the Tribunal. In my Judgment, I agreed with him. I deferred giving my reasons for allowing the appeal today.
- I have read the reasons given by my learned brother, Galadima. JSC; for allowing the appeal. I am in agreement with his reasoning which I adopt as mine. I abide by consequential orders made in the lead reasoning of my learned brother, including order as to costs. I allow the appeal.
- RHODES-VIVOUR, J.S.C.: On 3 February 2016 this Court heard this appeal and dismissed it. Reasons for that conclusion are to be given on 26 February, 2016. The reasons for the judgment just read by my learned brother, Galadima, JSC was made available to me in draft. I agree with his lordship that the issues in this appeal were resolved in favour of the Appellant in SC.18/2016, and need not be repeated. I also adopt the reasons given in SC.18/2016 as mine, and allow this appeal.
- I set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on 31 December, 2015 restore the judgment of the Election Tribunal that affirmed INEC’s declaration and return of Okezie Victor Ikpeazu as the duly elected Governor of Abia State.
- Parties shall bear their costs.
- AKA’AHS, J.S.C.: This appeal has the same substratum as appeal No. SC. 18/2016. In this appeal, the appellant sponsored the 3rd respondent to contest for the Governorship seat of Abia State in the election held on April, 11 and 25, 2015. Since the appeal in SC. 18/2016 was allowed, this appeal must equally succeed.
- I therefore associate myself with the reasons advanced by my learned brother, Galadima JSC in allowing the appeal on 3rd February, 2016. No order on costs is made.
- KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C.: We heard this appeal on Wednesday, 3rd February 2016. On that day, I agreed with my learned brother, Galadima, JSC that this appeal is meritorious and I accordingly allowed it. I promised to give my reasons for so doing today.
- This appeal arose from the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Owerri Division, delivered on 31st December, 2015, setting aside the judgment of the Abia State Governorship Election Tribunal, which dismissed the petition of the 1st and 2nd respondents against the return of the 3rd respondent as the duly elected Governor of the State.
- Three separate appeals were filled against the judgment, to wit:(i) SC. 18/2016: Okezie Victor Ikpeazu Vs Alex Otti & Ors(ii) SC.19/2016: P.D.P Vs Alex Otti & Ors(iii) SC. 22/2016: INEC Vs Alex Otti & Ors
- Comprehensive reasons for allowing the sister appeal in SC. 18/2016: Okezie Victor Ikpeazu Vs Alex Otti & Ors have just been given by my learned brother, Galadima, JSC
- As this appeal is between the same parties and on substantially the same facts, I agree entirely with the reasons advanced by His Lordship for allowing it. I adopt the reasons as mine. I abide by the consequential orders made, inclusive of costs.
- NWEZE, J.S.C.: On February 3rd 2016, upon the hearing of this appeal, I agreed with my Lord, Galadima, JSC, that it was meritorious and ought to be allowed. I promised to give my reasons today.
- Having read the reasons for the judgment, which my Lord, Galadima, JSC, eloquently, marshalled this morning for allowing the appeal in SC. 18/2016- reasons which I had the privilege of reading before now – I am in entire agreement with His Lordship that it would serve no useful purpose repeating the same reasons in respect of the instant appeal when the issues in both appeals are, thematically, affiliated.
- In place of the judgment of the lower Court, I restore the judgment of the trial Tribunal which affirmed the election and return of Okezie Victor Ikpeazu as the Governor of Abia State.