Members of the Imo State House of Assembly have been mandated to proceed to South Africa on a five-day retreat on the orders of the state government.
The move is alleged to prevent the swearing in of the Oguta state Constituency legislator-elect, Eugene Dibiagwu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The state High Court sitting at Mgbidi in the Orlu Juridical Division had struck out the suit filed by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate in the April 26, 2011 election, Walter Uzonwanne, against Dibiagwu who won the re-run election, saying that the suit lacked merit as it was supposed to be an Election Petition Tribunal matter.
An announcement on the state-owned radio station had it that the House had gone on recess till September 18, 2012 to enable the members proceed to South Africa for a five-day retreat.
One of the officials of the legislative house who pleaded for anonymity with THISDAY said the foreign trip has nothing to do with the swearing in of the legislator-elect, adding that the retreat had long been planned and was waiting for the governor’s approval.
THISDAY, however, learnt that the move was engineered by government in order to buy time to see if it could secure another court injunction restraining the House from swearing-in the legislator-elect, as all the moves by government towards thwarting the process of the swearing in had been quashed by the courts.
The APGA candidate had approached the court under Justice Ngozi Opara (a vacation judge for Owerri judicial division) for an order stopping the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly from swearing-in Dibiagwu after being declared winner of the Oguta re-run election for the state constituency held on August 11, 2012 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and subsequently issued a certificate of return as well as a letter from the State House of Assembly inviting him for his swearing-in.
The matter was later re-assigned to the High Court, Orlu Judicial Division sitting in Mgbidi.
Ruling on the matter, presiding judge, Justice K.K. Orjiakor, said the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit as a matter was an issue of an already concluded election by INEC and a certificate of return issued.
He therefore concluded that the matter was a case for the Election Petition Tribunal and not a matter for the regular courts.
After citing some relevant judicial authorities like Ogboru vs. Ibori, Okwusa vs. Obioha, etc, he ordered the first and second respondents (Speaker and Clerk of the Imo House of Assembly) to immediately swear-in the third respondent (Dibiagwu) as duly elected to represent Oguta state constituency.
The judge however descended heavily on the counsel for the claimant, Niyi Akintola (SAN) whom he accused of not advising his client of the futility of the suit and described it as “most worrisome”, even while decrying the inability of the plaintiff to even join INEC in the suit.