FROM TONY JOHN, PORT HARCOURT
The Court of Appeal, sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has upturned the Federal High Court ruling of September 17, 2013, which ordered the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to recognise Nicholas Ukachukwu, as the legitimate candidate for the November 16, 2013 governorship election in Anambra State.
It, therefore, declared Tony Nwoye, as the authentic PDP candidate in the election in the state.
Delivering judgment on the appeal filed by counsels to Nwoye, challenging decision of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, the three justices of the Court of Appeal, unanimously held that the Federal High Court overstepped its bounds in the PDP internal affairs in the state.
The presiding Judge, Justice Ejembi Eko, held that the provisions of the Electoral Act guidelines, as canvassed by Ukachukwu, was made in error, as he adequately participated in the primaries that produced Nwoye, as the candidate.
Eko further held that though the legality of the provisions of the Electoral Act was not challenged in the appeal, the issues brought before the Federal High Court was an internal party affairs and not matters for determination in the courts.
According to Justice Eko, the essence of the Electoral Act was not for contestants to go to court and upturn outcome of primary elections but to correct any deficiency.
The judge also held that the electoral screening committee had screened and resolved all issues, relating to tax-papers of Nwoye, which was why he was cleared.
The lead judge, therefore, faulted the attempt by Ukachukwu to disqualify Nwoye and make himself the party flag bearer.
He further held that the Federal High Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter, as issues of candidature of a party were only decided by such party.
The judges, therefore, upturned all the orders made by the Federal High Court, including the interim and interlocutory injunctions and the originating summons, adding that the judgment was entered in error.
Justice Eko, further awarded N20, 000 for each of the two appeals in favour of Nwoye.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the judgment, counsel to Ukachukwu, Prince Nwafor Orizu, argued that the judgment was not complete and the appellant did not specifically ask the court to order INEC to put Nwoye’s name in the ballot box.
Orizu said judgment, at any level in court, was correct until otherwise decided by a High Court.
He stated further that they would appeal the judgment, arguing that the candidature of the PDP was not yet settled.
Also, counsel to Nwoye, Mr. Clems Ike Ezika, lauded the judgment of the Appeal Court, saying with the pronouncement, Nwoye was now the authentic candidate of the party in Anambra State.
Also, counsel to INEC, Tochukwu Nweke, said the commission had a duty to obey the order of court and as such would put Nwoye’s name, as the candidate for the governorship elections.