From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court has settled the legal dispute on the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), for Abia Central Senatorial district in favour of Samuel Ifeanyi Onuigbo.
In a unanimous judgment on Friday, Justice Emmanuel Agim affirmed the decision of the Owerri division of the Court of Appeal that nullified the candidacy of Emeka Atuma.
Consequently, the apex court dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.
The court presided over by Justice Justice Rita Pemu, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise Samuel Onuigbo as the winner and authentic candidate of the APC, primary election for Abia Central senatorial district.
Onuigbo had represented Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency at the House of Representatives.
The Appellate court upheld the legality of the party primary held on May 28, 2022, which produced Onuigbo who scored the highest number of votes.
During the primary, Onuigbo came top ahead of his only challenger in the race, Chief Henry Ikoh who was later appointed Minister of State for Science and Technology.
But Atuma who did not participate in the primary was later recognised by the APC as its authentic candidate, an action that was challenged by Rep. Onuigbo at the Umuahia division of the Federal High Court.
The lawmaker had contended that it amounted to impunity and lack of internal democracy for Atuma who never participated in the senatorial primary but in the governorship primary to be recognized as the winner of an election he never participated in.
Atuma, who had earlier contested for the party’s gubernatorial ticket and lost to Dr. Ikechi Emenike and, thus, did not contest in the senatorial primary, was later named as the candidate.
Not accepting the seeming mischief, Onuigbo, in suit No FHC/UM/CS/113/2022, took the matter to the Federal High Court, urging it to declare him the duly nominated party candidate for Abia Central.
In her judgment, Justice Evelyeen Anyadike, dismissed the suit filed by Onuigbo for failing to prove his case.
In the dismissed suit, Onuigbo had prayed the court to declare him as the winner of the APC primary election for the seat held on May 28 which the party declared inconclusive and rescheduled it for June 7.
The court held that Onuigbo’s failure to participate in the rescheduled election, where Atuma, a former representative of the constituency was declared winner was detrimental to his prayer and therefore dismissed the suit.
The judge further held that it is settled in law that the choice of candidate for an election is an internal party affair even as the APC counsel, Barr Vigilus Nwankwo later said Onuigbo’s case failed like a pack of cards.