A Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday ordered that Dr. Obiora Okonkwo be sworn in as senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Justice John Tsoho, who delivered the judgment in the pre-election suit filed by Obiora, ordered the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to forthwith, inaugurate Okonkwo to take over the Anambra Central Senatorial District seat in the Senate.
The suit was filed against the PDP and three others. The trial judge, Justice Tsoho agreed with the submissions of counsel to Obiora, Sabastine Hon (SAN) that pre-election matters like this, from an array of authorities, decided by the Supreme Court, take priority over decisions by election tribunals and other courts in election disputes based on same political seat contested for.
“They outlast the period of election and post election until they are determined.”
The court further relied on the authorities in Abdulkarim Vs INCAR (Nig. Ltd) (1992) 7SCNJ 366 at 379: Amaechi Vs INEC (2008) 5NWLR: Oker Jev Vs Iortyom (2015) and Inoma Vs Idakwo (2003) to support his judgment.
Hon had submitted that consequential orders need not to be asked for before they are granted.
He said a candidate, who has won the party primaries but rejected by his party can be ordered, by way of a consequential order, to assume that seat.
In his judgment, the court held that Obiora was validly nominated by the PDP in its primary election of December 7, 2014, for the senatorial district.
Justice Tsoho ordered that the Certificate of Return earlier issued to another aspirant, Mrs. Uche Ekwenife, be withdrawn and that a fresh certificate of return be issued to Okonkwo by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Okonkwo had, in 2014, instituted a court action against PDP, its then National Chairman, Adamu Muazu, INEC and Mrs. Uche Ekwenife, challenging the nomination of Ekwenife as PDP’s candidate of the party for the 2015 National Assembly election.
However, in the course of hearing of the suit, the four defendants withdrew their processes against the case and agreed to submit themselves to the judgment of the Federal High Court .
In his submission, counsel to the PDP, I. E. Umeji, said the party did not file any counter affidavit to the motion on notice.
“We are not opposing the application. With my Lords permission, may we re-adopt the processes filed before the court. We re-adopt the notice of withdrawal filed on March 2, 2017, by the first and second respondents. The notice of withdrawal was dated March 1, 2017, but was filed on March 2, 2017.
“My lord, we urge the court to deem these two processes as representing the position of the first and second respondents in this case. By that affidavit of facts, the first and second respondents have submitted to the judgment in this case.”
Counsel to the third respondent (INEC), Nnamdi Nweze, said his client did not file anything in the matter because it believes the case is an intra- party matter.
“As an impartial umpire, it does not want to delve into the arena. And as a responsible organisation, which is a creation of the law, it is ready to abide by the decision of the court. And there is no objection to the submissions made by counsel to the plaintiff.”