Okorocha’s Certificate of Return: What happened in court on Thursday

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The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, warned lawyers not to engage in unethical conducts that would cause 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.

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He made it clear that the court would not entertain frivolous applications for adjournments, especially those seeking for extension of time with respect to procedural processes.

Although, Okorocha’s counsel, 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 gave the go-ahead.

According to him, “the right to fair hearing takes precedent over all other issues.”

Besides, the court held that, “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.

“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 abridgement of time by the court by Order 13 Rule 35(15) is made as a consequential order to enable the court 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.

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

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

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