The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Tuesday, proceeded with the certificate of return case filed by Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State in spite of a petition by the third defendant, Osita Izunaso.
Mr Izunaso, who was the APC governorship candidate in the state, had petitioned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati, saying he felt shut out of the matter and was being denied fair hearing.
At the resumed hearing, the trial judge, Okon Abang, said he had received the petition but that hearing in the matter would proceed accordingly since Mr Izunaso had failed to serve the petition on other parties as required by law.
“The third defendant (Izunaso) wrote a petition to the chief judge of this court that this matter be reassigned to another judge that this court as presently constituted denied him fair hearing in this matter.
“He made reference to several decisions of this court and questioned those decisions.
“The law is settled that where a petition is written against the court, or its judge in respect of a matter it is handling by a party in the case, it is the duty of the lawyer that wrote the petition to ensure that all parties in the suit are served with the petition.
“The proceedings of the court have been conducted in the open court and not in chamber and in line with the rules of court and the court records are duly kept and there is nothing to hide in the matter.
“The third defendant ought to have served his petition on all parties in the suit since all parties participated in the suit and are entitled to be heard before a decision is taken with respect to the petition
“It is immaterial that the petition was signed by the third defendant, it is my view that the petition was written by his lawyer who merely asked him to sign,” Mr Abang said.
The judge held that the law was clear on that issue and that except otherwise provided, a lawyer shall not deliver to a judge a petition without delivering same to the opposing lawyers.
Mr Abang asked the registrar of the court to make copies of the petition and serve on the plaintiff’s counsel, the first, sixth and seventh defendants counsel for their information.
He also said it should be served on them for them to ascertain if the facts represented by the third defendant represented the true position of proceedings of the court.
He ordered that the matter shall continue accordingly and called the fourth and fifth defendants’ counsel to present their cases and they both urged the court in their submission to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.
The matter has been adjourned until May 22 for continuation of hearing.
Mr Okorocha was 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 allegations of bias, he recused himself from hearing the matter and returned the case file to the Chief Judge of the court for reassignment.