The legal tussle to determine the authentic candidate for the Aniocha North PDP Delta State House of Assembly election was finally laid to rest when the Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, struck out the case instituted by Mr. Uzoma Idaboh challenging the results of the Primary election in Aniocha North Constituency conducted on November 29, 2014, thus affirming Engr. Emeka Nwaobi as the authentic candidate of PDP for Delta State House of Assembly election, for Aniocha North Constituency, in the forthcoming April 11, 2015 elections.
Delivering judgment on the matter, brought before it by Prince Uzoma Idaboh against Engr. Emeka Nwaobi, on Thursday 26th March, 2015, the presiding Judge at the Asaba Federal High Court, Justice CMA Olatoreogun-Ishola struck out the case on the grounds that it was incurably defective, lacked merit and since the court has no jurisdiction to entertain the case, was left with no other option but to strike it out.
Recall that the case instituted by Prince Idaboh at the Abuja Federal High Court had been transferred to the Asaba Federal High Court after the Counsel to Engr. Emeka Nwaobi. Ken Mozia Esq., had successfully argued that the Abuja Federal High Court lacked Jurisdiction to entertain a matter that had taken place in Delta State. The preliminary hearing had then come up on March 7, 2015.
Justice Olatoregun-Ishola, presiding at the Asaba Federal High Court, had established that Prince Uzoma Idaboh, who is the plaintiff had, through his Counsel Chief E.L Akpofure approached the Federal High court, Abuja, asking the court to determine between him and Engr. Emeka Nwaobi, who legitimately is the authentic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the primary election conducted in Aniocha North Constituency on November 29, 2014.
The Judge further said that Idaboh had also asked the court to nullify the certificate of return issued to Emeka Nwaobi as the 2nd defendant by the PDP who is the 3rd defendant and equally compel INEC as the 1st defendant to publish his name as the valid winner of the primary as supervised by INEC.
It was also established by the Court that Counsel to the 2nd defendant had equally filed a counter affidavit, challenging the locus standi of the plaintiff in the conduct of a primary election, which is the function of a political party as stipulated by the Electoral Law which confers on political parties, the complete power to exercise its authority in the conducting its own primaries and presenting candidates to INEC
In the same vein, the Judge said that the 3rd Defendant which is the PDP also filed an affidavit, stating that the Federal High court, Asaba, has no jurisdiction to entertain the case after it was transferred from Abuja based on the fact that the Abuja Federal High court could not entertain a case that has its jurisdiction in Delta State.
Having thus established the fundamentals of the case and entertained preliminary arguments and submissions on the matter by counsel representing the various parties, the Judge had then adjourned the matter to March 24, to allow all parties submit further affidavits and applications to support their oral arguments.
When the parties and their Counsels appeared before Justice Olatoregun-Ishola on Tuesday March 24, the contentious issues before the court revolved around the authenticity of the two results presented by both Idaboh and Nwaobi, the certificate of return issued to both PDP contestants, the determination of which body between INEC and Political parties, had the authority to conduct primaries, the issue of who, between the State and National secretariats of a political party had authority to conduct the primary and the question of jurisdiction of the Asaba High Court to entertain the matter, amongst others.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Prince Uzoma Idaboh, Chief Akpofure, SAN, had argued, amongst other issues, that the result of the PDP primary, presented by Emeka Nwaobi was forged, the forensic report by the police was questionable and, while challenging the request of the 2nd defendant to submit new and further affidavit after the originating submissions and the supporting affidavits had been filed and equally pleading with the court to consider adopting certain arguments outside the rules, in the interest of justice, averred that the fact that there were two results was sufficient for the Court to dismiss the matter and give judgment to his client.
However, counsel to the 2nd defendant, Emeka Nwaobi, Ken Mozia Esq., SAN argued, amongst other points of law, that the mandate to conduct and declare results of party primaries was the authority of National secretariat and not the state secretariat of political parties, that the police forensic report had already confirmed the authenticity of the signatories of the relevant officials on the result presented, that INEC had only supervisory status and not full authority in the conduct and declaration of the result of primary elections of political parties.
Mozia further posited that INEC went beyond its statutory authority to publish an initial result for the primary election which it tendered before the court and that the body had already published the current results of the primary election in Aniocha North, as endorsed by the PDP, which it had failed to tendered before the court, adding that since there were two duplicates of all the results, certificates of return and police reports, the Court had no jurisdiction to further entertain the matter
Counsel to INEC, while seeking an extension of time to file further affidavit to support its case, equally averred that since the body had the mandate to supervise primary elections it should also have the authority to announce the results of the primaries. Counsel to PDP however argued that the Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter and quoting Khaki vs PDP, established that the matter lacked merit and the Court should disqualify itself forthwith.
Justice Olatoregun-Ishola then granted the extension of time and urged all parties to submit all outstanding applications and further affidavit, before the end of the day. Thursday, March 26, 2015 was then fixed for judgment and the rest as they say is history, as Justice Olatoregun-Ishola, in giving judgment, upheld the argument of Counsel to Emeka Nwaobi, Ken Mozia Esq., SAN and struck out the case.
Justice Olatoregun-Ishola maintained that having listened to all the parties to the case and examined all the evidences as presented, she had come to the conclusion that based on a recent Supreme Court decision on a similar case, the court had no jurisdiction to continue with the case.
She further affirmed that the PDP Counsel had argued that the party had adopted its candidate and not even the court had jurisdiction to query it, and based on the fact there were two parallel primaries on November 29, 2014; one by the State Electoral Panel as conducted by Emmanuel Okorodudu and the other by the National Electoral Panel of PDP as conducted by Roy Ogeh, she upheld the Roy Ugeh primary as the authentic primary since it had the authority of the National secretariat.
She therefore, struck out the case as instituted by Prince Uzoma Idaboh against Engr. Emeka Nwaobi for lacking merit, being hostile and incurably defective and dismissed the case on the grounds that the court was incompetent to entertain the case being solely a party affair, even as she added that political parties should ensure their primaries are free of rancor in future in order to help in institutionalizing democracy in the country.
Responding to the legal victory, that has now certified him as the authentic PDP Aniocha North Candidate for the April 11, 2015, Delta State House of Assembly election, Engr. Emeka Nwaobi, gave thanks to God for making the victory possible and expressed satisfaction with the judgment, even as he lauded his counsel Ken Mozia, SAN, and hailed the justice system for upholding the correct position of the law on the matter.
Nwaobi said, “I am satisfied with the judgment. It goes to give God all the glory for bringing the truth to light. The judgment clearly affirmed the true position of the law on the matter and I am happy that Justice has been done.”
Nwaobi further said that the victory has now energized him with vigour and spurred him to carry on with his campaign, which he was quick to add had not waned, despite the challenges posed by the Court case, to the good people of Aniocha North, urging them to keep faith with him until victory was secured for the PDP and the entire constituents of Aniocha North LGA on April 11.
While affirming that he had dearly wished to explore an out of court settlement, in recognition of the filial relationship he enjoyed with the plaintiff, Engr. Nwaobi was however emphatic on the fact that he would not dissuade Prince Uzoma Idaboh from appealing the judgment, noting that since the verdict of the court was a clear-cut victory based on the factual evidence he presented before the court, he would extend the olive branch to Prince U Z Idaboh to join hands with him in his campaign with a view to ensuring that PDP, the party which they both belong, wins the elections for the overall development of the Area.
“When two people fight, one will surely win. I won today, while Prince Idaboh lost. If he chooses to appeal the judgment, then all well and good. I am confident that I have a solid case as the judgment given by the Federal High Court, Asaba has established and the case will stand on its merit no matter which Court it is taken”, Nwaobi said.
He then dedicated the Victory to God for proving to him that He remains faithful to them that believed and trust in him, and while thanking all his supporters who believed in him and stood by him all through the period the case lingered, called on the people of Aniocha North to remain resolute and determined towards achieving victory in the Presidential, National Assembly as well as the Governorship and House of Assembly Elections on Saturday March 28 and April 11 2015, respectively.