Delta North: Appeal Court Returns Nwaoboshi as Senator-elect

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Peter Nwaoboshi

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Court of Appeal, Abuja yesterday reinstated Senator Peter Nwaoboshi as the Senator-elect for Delta North senatorial district.

A three-member panel of the appellate in reinstating Nwaobshi as Senator-elect, set aside the judgment of a Federal High Court, Abuja, which had earlier nullified Nwaobshi’s victory at the 2018 Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) primary conducted to select the party’s flag bearer for the senatorial seat.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja had in a judgment delivered in April this year nullified the nomination of Nwaoboshi as candidate of the PDP in the February 23 National Assembly election on the grounds that Ned Nwoko and not Nwaobshi won the party’s primary election.

Justice Mohammed had ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return it issued Nwaobshi as winner of the election and issued a fresh certificate to Nwoko, being the lawful candidate of the PDP in the said election.

Dissatisfied, Nwaobshi approached the Court of Appeal to upturn the decision of the trial court on the grounds that the lower court erred in law when it held that he was not the lawful candidate of the PDP in the February 23 National Assembly poll.

Nwaoboshi representing Delta North senatorial district who also won the February 23, senatorial district election, had asked the appellate court to reverse the decision of the lower court and upheld his emergence as senator-elect .

In the judgment delivered yesterday, the Court of Appeal in a unanimous decision set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court Abuja, which had sacked Nwaobshi.

The panel in the lead judgment delivered by Justice Abdullahi Idris, held that the Nwoko’s suit against the candidacy of Senator Nwaobshi was statute-barred and ought not to have been heard in the first instance.

The appellate court accordingly struck out the suit for lacking merit.

“By the time the matter was instituted at the trial court, the action was statute-barred, having commenced outside the 14 days allowed by the law”.

“This appeal is allowed; consequently the order of the lower court is set aside and the suit is struck out”, Justice Idris held.

Justice Idris also dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Nwoko.

In arguing the appeal, Nwaobshi’s lawyer, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), urged the appellate court to uphold the appeal and reinstate Senator Nwaoboshi as the senator- elect .

He said that two issues are involved in the appeal. First, is whether the case as filed by Nwoko at the Federal High Court was a pre- election matter and statute-barred at the time it was filed.

The senior lawyer asked the court to consider the reliefs sought by the respondent- seeking a declaration that he won the PDP primary election, which was not granted by the lower court.

He further urged the appellate court to look at (exhibit 1), the result sheet of the primary election, that was tendered by both the appellant and Nwoko at lower court and find the date the primary took place.

He maintained that the suit being a pre- election matter was first filed at Federal Capital Territory High Court after the 14 days allowed by law had elapsed.

On his part, Nwoko represented by Ahmed Raji (SAN), urged the appellate court to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that the suit was filed within time allowed by law.

He explained that the ‘action’ which ignited the suit was the publication made by the INEC showing the list of party candidates.