Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja yesterday nullified the participation of Mr. Uche Nwosu, the son-in-law of former Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, in the last governorship election in the state.
Justice Ekwo, in a judgment, nullified Nwosu’s candidacy in the polls on the grounds of double nominations, an action, which according to the court violated section 37 of the Electoral Act.
Nwosu contested the March 16 governorship election held in Imo State on the platform of the Action Alliance (AA), a party formed by Okorocha as a special purpose vehicle to drive his political agenda following stiff opposition from the All Progressives Congress (APC), which opposed his bid to handpick all candidates for the general election.
However, while Okorocha prosecuted his senatorial ambition on the APC platform, he pushed his supporters to run on the ticket of AA.
Before his nomination by the AA, the former Chief of Staff in Imo State Government House, was the APC candidate in the same election, having been foisted on the party by his father in-law before the APC national leadership annulled his candidacy.
Justice Ekwo in his judgment upheld the case of the plaintiffs, the Action People’s Party (APP) and its Deputy National Chairman, Mr. Uche Nnadi, that Nwosu’s candidature was null and void on the grounds of multiplicity of nominations as the governorship candidate of both the APC and AA.
Justice Ekwo declared that the nomination of Nwosu by AA as a governorship candidate, “is invalid, null and void, having been made at the pendency of similar nomination of the second defendant (Nwosu) by the APC for the same position.”
The judge held that Nwosu affirmed to be the APC’s governorship candidate in his statement on oath sworn before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
The judge similarly declared that Nwosu, “has not been validly nominated by the third defendant (AA) as its governorship candidate for the Imo State governorship election having been made at the pendency of the order of Justice Valentine Ashi of the Abuja High Court recognising the second defendant as the candidate of the APC for the Imo State 2019 governorship election.”
He noted that Nwosu participated in the APC’s primary held on October 6, 2018 and was subsequently nominated as the party’s governorship candidate.
While laying claim to the APC’s governorship ticket, amidst stiff opposition from members of the party, he was said to have on October 9, 2018, obtained an order of Justice Valentine Ashi (now deceased) of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, recognising him as the valid candidate of the party.
In the midst of this, Nwosu was also offered the ticket of the AA.
Delivering judgment on the plaintiffs’ case, Justice Ekwo said, “There is no controversy that, on October 6, 2018, the second defendant (Nwosu) had himself nominated as the governorship candidate of the APC.
“Furthermore, there is no controversy that, to secure his nomination by the APC, the second defendant on October 9, 2019, obtained an order of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, which subsists having not been set aside.”
Justice Ekwo held that Nwosu, through his lawyers, failed to offer any valid rebuttal to the plaintiffs’ evidence that he was nominated by both the APC and the AA, while INEC filed no papers in the case.
He ruled: “It is illegal in the eyes of the law. No one is allowed to benefit from an illegal act. The second defendant allowed himself to be nominated by the APC and the third defendant (AA).
“It is hereby declared that the nomination of the second defendant by the APC and Action Alliance, the third defendant, is invalid, null and void and constitute violation of section 37 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
“An order of this honourable court is hereby made directing the first defendant (INEC) to remove the name of the second defendant (Nwosu) as the governorship candidate of the third defendant (AA) in the 2019 Imo State governorship election for multiple nominations in violation of the provision of section 37 of the Electoral Act 2018 (as amended).
“An order of this honourable court is hereby made restraining the first defendant (INEC) from recognising the second defendant (Nwosu) as the governorship candidate of the third defendant (AA) and/or any other political party for the 2019 Imo State governorship election.
“An order of this honourable court is hereby made restraining the first defendant (INEC) from giving value to any act done in pursuance of the second defendant purported candidature of the third defendant (AA) and/or any other political party in the 2019 Imo State governorship election.”
The judge had earlier dismissed Nwosu’s preliminary objection and picked holes in the defence he and the AA separately filed against the substantive suit.
Dismissing the preliminary objection, Justice Ekwo ruled that the provision of section 285(9) of the constitution, which stipulates that a pre-election case must be filed within 14 days of the occurrence of the event being complained of, was not applicable to the case.
The plaintiffs, APP and Nnadi, filed their suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/235/2019 on February 27, 2019.
Justice Ekwo held that the intention of section 285(9) of the constitution cited by Nwosu’s legal team was not to make the court “to gloss over all acts prohibited by the Electoral Act” and added that, “It will mean that section 285(9) of the Constitution is capable, by effect, of allowing a void, illegal or prohibited act to stand and the person behind the act to benefit from the act that is void ab initio.
“It must be said that an illegal or prohibited act does not become legal by virtue of being time-barred.”
He also ruled that the suit was not an abuse of court processes since it was filed to seek an interpretation of the provision of the Electoral Act and also held that by virtue of the provision of section 37 of the Electoral Act, the plaintiffs, despite that they did not participate in the election, possessed the locus standi (legal right) to file their suit.