8th July, 2011
Months after the governorship election in Imo state during which Chief Rochas Okorocha trounced the then incumbent Governor Ikedi Ohakim to emerge winner, old legal wars pending against Ohakim have become Okorocha’s burden.
An Anambra state politician, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, has petitioned
the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, over the
rescheduling of his pre-election matter pending before the court which
ought to have been heard on 23 March 2011 before the April general elections but which was rescheduled by the court to 18 October 2011.
The politician in the petition dated 18 March 2011, sought for an early fixture of his appeal before the last general elections but received no response from the court, an action he is kicking against now.
Following the cancellation of the governorship election of 14 April 2007 in Imo state by the Prof Maurice Iwu-led Independent National Election Commission, INEC, the
electoral body rescheduled and conducted a fresh election on the 28 of the same month during which Ohakim emerged winner and was subsequently sworn into office.
Mr. Okonkwo, soon after the rescheduling of the Imo state election, dragged the electoral body and the Federal Government before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja challenging the constitutionality of conducting the polls outside the statutory and constitutionally
prescribed 30 days before the expiration of the tenure of the then serving Governor Achike Udenwa.
Mr. Okonkwo queried whether, having regard to section 178 (2) of the
1999 constitution, the act of INEC conducting a fresh election in Imo
state on April 28th which is later than 30 days to the expiration of term of office of the then incumbent, is not unconstitutional, illegal, null and void?
While proceedings were ongoing at the court, Ikedi Ohakim, who had then been sworn into office, applied to the court, through Chief Chris Uche, a senior advocate of Nigeria, to be joined as a party in the suit as he stood to be affected by the outcome of the case when finally determined by the court.
Following this application, the trial judge, Justice Garba Umar, granted the request and made the Governor of Imo state the 4th defendant in the suit which already had the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Attorney General of the Federation and INEC as 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively.
The bid by Mr. Okonkwo to remove Ohakim from office however failed in October 2010 when the court delivered judgment in the case and held that Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo lacked the requisite locus standi to initiate or sustain the action as he was not even a
candidate at the said election.
Okonkwo challenged the judgment at the Court of Appeal where a panel headed by Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba commenced hearing of the matter. On Tuesday 9 November 2010, the court dismissed a preliminary objection filed by the Governor of Imo state challenging the competency of the appeal and fixed hearing of the substantive appeal for 23 March, 2011.
Before the scheduled date, Mr. Okonkwo was duly informed by the court
that the fixed date for his appeal was no longer feasible and a new date of 10th October, 2011 was conveyed to him. The new date cleared the coast for Ohakim who was getting battle ready to go to the polls to retain his office.
He subsequently lost that election, having been rejected by the Imo state electorate who chose Okorocha instead of him.
Come 10 October 2011, Governor Rochas Okorocha, will continue the battle
inherited on assumption of office as the Governor of Imo state, to secure the mandate given to him by the Imo state electorate last April.
ByÂ Nnamdi Felix / Abuja