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Okorocha’s Certificate of Return: Court decides PDP’s fate Thursday

Gov. Rochas Okorocha

By Wandoo Sombo

Abuja, May 8, 2019

The Federal High Court Abuja has fixed May 9 to rule on an application by the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) seeking to be joined as parties in a suit filed by Imo Governor, Rochas Okorocha, over his Certificate of Return.

Justice Okon Abang fixed the date on Wednesday following arguments from counsel on why the party should or should not be joined as an interested party in the suit.

Presenting his argument, counsel to PDP, Mr Stanley Imo, posited that the objection to his client’s application for joinder by Okorocha on the grounds that his client was already adequately represented was misguided.

He said that because the second defendant in the suit, Mr Jones Onyereri, was a candidate of the PDP in the election under contention was not enough reason to shut the PDP out of the proceedings.

“We beg to disagree with this line of argument because this court, differently constituted, joined the defendant (All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA), as an interested party even when the 3rd defendant (Osita Izunaso) was a candidate of the 7th defendant.

“It is not in doubt that a political party that sponsored a candidate is an interested party in an action of this nature.

“The Electoral Act says the two people who can challenge the outcome of an election are the political party that sponsored a candidate or the candidate himself.”

He submitted that it was wrong for Okorocha to say that the interest of the PDP could not be pursued by it, independent of its candidate.

Imo prayed the court to discountenance the objection of Okorocha and allow his client to be joined as a party, adding that the interest to be considered should be that of the party and not of the counsel.

The Counsel to Okorocha, Mr Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), objected to PDP being joined as a party on the ground that the application was brought in bad faith.

“The application was brought for the purpose of truncating, delaying and frustrating the prompt hearing of this matter.

“Mr Imo is someone I have great respect for but the court will find that from records, when the matter came up on April 5, he appeared for the 2nd defendant.

“He also appeared as counsel to the 2nd defendant on April 9 and during all the proceedings, the urgency of the matter was highlighted and that was why accelerated hearing was ordered.

“The matter was adjourned for definite hearing only for Imo to come round, disengage from the 2nd defendant’s team and file this application to frustrate the matter.”

Ogunwumiju urged the court to look beyond Imo’s delay tactics and consider the nature of the dispute, which was time sensitive, in exercising its discretion, saying PDP was not a necessary or desirable party.

In a short bench ruling, Justice Abang, agreed that the matter was time sensitive but gave assurance  that all parties would be given fair hearing.

He adjourned the matter until May 9 to rule on whether to join the PDP as a party in the suit or not.

Earlier, there had been a long argument from counsel as to whether PDP’s application for joinder should be heard or not.

The court had finally ruled that it would be a denial of fair hearing for a person seeking to be joined as a party in a suit to be shut out.

Okorocha is in court asking for an order compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue him with a Certificate of Return as the Senator-elect for Imo West Senatorial District.

The matter was first assigned to Justice Taiwo Taiwo, but following an allegation of bias, he recused himself from hearing the matter and returned the case file to the Chief Judge of the court for reassignment.

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