By Tobi Soniyi
Supreme Court has directed a Federal High Court sitting in Owerri, Imo State to hear the case filed by Chief Austin Nwachukwu seeking to stop the Peoples Democratic Party from submitting the name of Professor Chudi Uwazurike to the Independent National Electoral Commission as its candidate for Okigwe South Federal Constituency in last year general elections.
The case was filed in March last year, just before the general elections took place.
But before the court could hear the case, Uwazurike through his counsel, Chief Chukwuma Ekomaru, SAN objected to the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case.
He had argued that since the name of the candidate (Uwazurike) had been submitted to INEC it was too late for Nwachukwu to approach the court. He also said that Nwachukwu did not take part in the primary which produced Uwazurike and therefore could not challenge the result of the primary.
He further asked the court to hands off the case because: "The writ of summons was not properly issued as required by Order 3 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure Rules), which gives a defendant 30 days to enter appearance and not 8 days as shown on the writ of summons."
After hearing arguments on the issue of jurisdiction the court overruled Uwazurike and held that it had the jurisdiction to hear the case.
Dissatisfied with the ruling Uwazurike appealed to the Court of Appeal but his appeal was also dismissed.
Upon a further appeal to the Supreme Court, Justice Walter Onnoghen who delivered the judgment of the court held that the jurisdiction conferred on the high court by the Electoral Act was not limited to time and was not circumscribed between the holding of the primary election and submission of the name of nominated or sponsored candidate by the political party.
His lordship noted that time was of the essence since the issue in question bothered on who should represent the constituency at the House of Representatives.
He said: "I hold the view that this is the most useless appeal I have ever had the opportunity to hear and determine as the same is completely uncalled for, unmeritorious and unfortunate."
He consequently dismissed the appeal.
He asked the appellant to pay to the respondent the sum of N100,000 as cost.