The Supreme Court of Nigeria on Thursday dismissed the appeal filed by former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Emeka Ihedioha, challenging the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Governor Rochas Okorocha, in the April 11 governorship election in the state.
A seven-man bench, led by Justice John Fabiyi, affirmed an earlier judgment by the Court of Appeal, Owerri, which held that Ihedioha’s failure to properly serve Okorocha and his party robbed the appellate court the jurisdiction to hear the case.
The Supreme Court noted that Ihedioha’s failure to indicate, in the appeal processes (documents), addresses of other respondents was fatal to the case.
The court consequently dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.
The court also affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal to reject three separate motions which the appellant as petitioner had filed before the tribunal.
The apex court held that it could not evoke its jurisdiction under section 22 of the Supreme Court Act since the appeal had been rightly dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
Justice Iyang Okoro, who read the lead judgment, held that the Court of Appeal was right to have granted the preliminary objection raised against the service of notice of appeal by Okorocha.
He upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal to the effect that the appellants merely “dumped” the processes on the protocol officer of the APC instead of personal service provided for by the law.
“Although the court is not a slave to its rule, it is the duty of the court to ensure that its rules are obeyed,” Justice Okoro ruled.
He dismissed the appellant’s argument that the Appeal Court, having earlier ruled that the processes had been served on all the respondents, no longer had the power to subsequently rule that the respondents were not properly served.
He held that the statement confirming that the respondents had been served was only that of a registrar of the court and not a decision of the court.
Justice Okoro said: “The summary of all that I have said above is that the statement by the registrar that the processes had been served on all the respondents was not a decision of the lower court and does not preclude the court from satisfying itself from available records on whether the 26 absent respondents were actually served.
“Secondly notice of appeal being an originating process, must be served personally on the respondents unless otherwise directed or ordered by the court or intended by the provision of the law. In this case there was no such order.
“On the whole, there is no merit in this appeal at all. Accordingly, it is hereby dismissed by me.
“Thus the judgment of the lower court (Court of Appeal) in Owerri delivered on September 3, 2015, which struck out the appeal of the appellant is hereby affirmed. Parties are to bear their respective costs.”
The Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had, in a ruling on July 22, dismissed Ihedioha’s petition against Okorocha’s victory on on the grounds that it was incompetence.
Ihedioha appealed the ruling. The Court of Appeal, Owerri dismissed the appeal in its decision given on September 3, 2015, prompting the PDP candidate to appeal to the Supreme Court.