It was a mix feelings in the camp of both parties in the case of stay of execution suit filed by the embattled Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu and Uche Ogah, who had asked the court to vacate the order of Abia High Court judgement which forbade the Chief Judge of the state or any judicial personnel to swear him in as governor of Abia State.
In a bench ruling Friday afternoon, Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court, refused the motions of both parties and directed that as far as both parties agreed that he lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the motion because Ikpeazu had already lodged an appeal, he left the matters to the Appeal Court to handle and adjourns proceedings untill Court of Appeal decision.
That is he neither granted stay of execution, the applicant wanted nor vacated the order of Abia State High Court, which barred Ogah from been swore in, as the respondent had wanted.
Abang noted though he had jurisdiction to hear the suit but because of the arguments of Ikpeazu’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun and Ugah’s lawyer, Alex Iziyon, that as far as he had no more jurisdiction over the matters, he left the decisions to the Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, the Abia court order was the main bone of contention at the resumption of the proceedings on Friday.
Chief Olanipekun had asked Justice Abang to hand over the matter informing the court that an appeal has already been filed against the judgment asking Ikpeazu to vacate office.
While not opposing the submission of the counsel for the applicantIp, Iziyon however said the Court should rule on the application before it at the last hearing relating to abuse of court process.
“The application borders on abuse of court process and contempt of court rooted from Abia State High Court when this application was pending before this court.
“That is the only new dimension to the settled principle that when an appeal has been entered you hands off the proceedings including any pending applications.
“What is worrisome is that at this stage can this court close its eye to abuse of court and sancity of the court which the court has the power to protect or should it be left to the Court of Appeal? I submit that this issue is still live,” said Iziyon.
He further argued that the issue of application obtained by the applicant borders on issue of integrity and sanctity of the Court which is not one of the issues before the court of appeal.
Iziyon argued that the pronouncement of the court will have no effect on the appeal entered.
When the Judge asked him what he wanted the court to do, Iziyon said “to make a pronouncement on the application made by the first respondent relating to the applicants conduct in obtaining an order from a court of coordinate juridisction while he is before your Lordship. Set it aside because it is the applicant who brought it before your Lord, to restore the dignity and integrity of the court.”
However, he was countered by Chief Olanipekun who argued that what Iziyon is asking for will bring the court in collision with the Court of Appeal.
He also argued that there is no application before the court relating to the Abia State High Court judgment.
He added that even if there is, the court must hands off now that it has been brought to its notice that an appeal has been filed on the matter.
“Even if there is and issues have been joined and that the Court have been adjourned for ruling, immediately an appeal is entered, the court has lost juridisction to deliver the ruling.
“This is an issue that is so trite, not debatable starting from 1962 in a decision of Supreme Court and reiterated many times.
“I submit that your Lordship has lost juridisction in its entirety, so it is not a question of picking and choosing”
He added that what Iziyon is asking the Court to do will amount undermining the outcome of the suit at the Court of Appeal.
“The only power you have is to transfer records of the proceedings to appeal court. The court of appeal is a jealous court. It will not share its juridisction with another court,” said the Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
Chief Olanipekun concluded by asking the Court to hands off the everything related to the case and transmit its records to Court of Appeal.
In giving his ruling, Abang said: ‘This is the moment of truth’, he knocked off the authorities cited by Olanipekun, saying they were not relevant to the case at hand.
He said: “The argument of appellant, is hat the court ceases to have a right over the case.
in line with Order 4, rule 11, I want to say I have jurisdiction over the matter. That section only regulates interlocutory decision that has been entered at the appeal court and not final decision, saying the law is that when there is a pending issue before a court of competent jurisdiction, you first go before that court to seek the relief of stay of execution.
He berated Ikpeazu for rushing to Appeal Court, when he ought to have come to the High Court first.
He said if the respondent counsel, Iziyon had argued against the applicant’s stand on the the issue of lack of jurisdiction, the ruling may have been different, noting I am not a party to the case, I can’t give judgment in piece meal, the matters will better be left for the Appeal Court to decide”, he summed.