Alex Enumah in Abuja
A candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chike Okafor, in the 2019 National Assembly election in Imo State and his party the APC, have asked the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal to unseat Emeka Nwajuba of the Accord Party, as a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ehimembano/Ihiteuboma/Obowo Federal constituency of Imo State.
Okafor and the APC in an appeal specifically want the appellate court to upturn the judgment of an Abuja High Court that produced Nwajuba of the Accord Party, as a member of the House of Representatives.
Justice Bello Kawau of the Bwari Division of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court had on February 12, 2019, barred the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) from accepting or listing the candidate of the APC in the rescheduled National Assembly election.
The legal action, which gave rise to the eventual emergence of Nwajuba, was ignited by a House of Representatives aspirant, Mrs. Uzoma Ann, who had filed a suit before the High Court against the APC, Nwajuba and the INEC.
Among other reliefs, she sought for the nullification of the nomination of Nwajiuba, as its candidate for the Okigwe South Federal Constituency for the 2019 elections.
According to her, Nwajiuba’s emergence violated the party’s rules and guidelines.
Justice Kawu in his ruling, cited various authorities and concluded that Nwajiuba’s nomination was “inappropriate, unlawful, null and void for failure to comply with the first defendant’s guideline for nomination of candidate.”
He also barred INEC “from further recognising, accepting or listing the second defendant’s name as the candidate of the first defendant in the 2019 ballot paper for Okigwe South House of Representatives election because the first defendant (APC) did not conduct primary election for the office.
Ironically, Chika Okafor, who was the nominated candidate of the APC for the Federal seat was not made a party in the suit and allegedly denied the opportunity of being heard.
While the suit was pending before the court, Nwajuba joined the Accord Party where he contested the elections against Chika Okafor of the APC, who won the election and was issued with a certificate of return by INEC.
It was after the issuance of the certificate of return on Okafor that his attention was drawn to the suit pending at the Kubwa Division of the FCT High Court.
Having become aware of the suit, Okafor approached the court seeking to set aside the entire proceedings as well as any order emanating there from and for injunctive orders against INEC in respect of Ehimembano/Iiteuboma/Obowo Constituency of Imo state.
While the said application was pending for hearing, Nwajuba who contested and lost the election to Okafor, approached the FCT High Court on April 29, 2019 to compel INEC to enforce its ruling delivered of February 12 2019.
Consequently, the electoral body in compliance with the said ruling of the FCT High Court issued a certificate of return to Nwajuba of the Accord Party as the elected member of the federal constituency.
Meanwhile, Justice Bello Kawu while ruling on the applications by Okafor dated May 13, 2019 for the setting aside of its injunctive orders and the entire proceedings, had on June 10, 2019 refused to grant it on the grounds that he has become functus officio.
Dissatisfied with the decision, the APC and its candidate, Okafor in their separate notices of appeals asked the appellate court to set aside the decision of the lower court and to declare the entire proceedings a nullity.
In its seven grounds of appeal filed by his counsel, Roland Otaru (SAN), the appellants urged the Court of Appeal to hold that the lower court erred in law in holding that he was functus officio to set aside his order of April 29, 2019 and the entire proceedings in suit No. FCT/HC/CV/423/2018.
Okafor argued that the decision of April 29, 2019 and the entire proceedings in the suit is a nullity as it was made without jurisdiction adding that a court can never be functus officio to set aside or revisit its null orders.