The Supreme Court has upheld the nomination of Barrister Vincent Ofumelu as the House of Representatives candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for Oyi/Ayamelum Federal Constituency in Anambra State.
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Musa Datijo Muhammad, in a unanimous ruling on February 11, 2019, set aside the judgment given on October 31, 2018 in favour of Dr. Uzochukwu Obiora Chira by the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in a suit marked: FCT/HC/CV/3066/2018.
Justice Muhammad, in the lead ruling, in the appeal filed by the PDP, marked: SC/1331/2018, held that the trial court (the High Court of the FCT) lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case filed by Chira, and therefore gave an incompetent judgment.
Justice Muhammad also set aside the subsequent judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which upheld the judgement High Court, and equally struck out the appeal filed against it by the PDP.
The judge said, since the trial court’s judgement was found to be incompetent, the subsequent judgment of the Appeal Court, upholding the earlier judgment, also becomes incompetent, because an incompetent judgment cannot be upheld.
Justice Muhammad agreed with the appellant (the PDP) that the suit filed by Chira, at the High Court of the FCT, on which the October 31, 2018 judgment was given, was incompetent because it was filed outside the 14 days allowed, under Section 285(9) of the Constitution (the 4th Alteration Act), for the filing of a pre-election case.
The judge upheld the argument by lawyers to the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Emmanuel Enoidem and Alhassan Umar that the primary conducted by the PDP to pick its candidate for the Oyi/Ayamelum constituency, the outcome of which Chira was contesting, was held on October 3, 2018, while Chira filed his suit on October 18, 2018 (16 days after the primary was held).
Earlier at the commencement of proceedings on February 11, 2019 the Supreme Court asked lawyers in the appeal – Enoidem ( for PDP), M. A. Mohammad (for Chira), Umar (for INEC) and R. A. O. whether Chira’s suit at the trial court was competent under Section 285(9) of the Constitution.
Enoidem and Umar argued that the suit was a pre-election case, and therefore incompetent having been filed outside the 14 days allowed by Section 285(9) of the Constitution.
They argued that the trial court was without the requisite jurisdiction as at when it heard the suit and gave the judgment of October 31, 2018.
In view of the submissions by Eboidem and Umar, R. A. O. Adegoke (for Ifeyinwa Chinelo Morah who was joined as the 3rd respondent on January 5, 2019), withdraw the motion he filed, in which he sought the court’s leave to file appeal as an interested party.
On October 3, 2018 the PDP held its primary to chose the candidate for the Oyi/Ayamelum Federal Constituency, in which three aspirants – Ofumelu, Chira and Morah – participated.
Ofumelu won with 108 votes, Chira scored 40 while Morah had only 2 votes, as reflected in the result submitted by the party’s House of Representatives Primary Committee that conducted the primary held on October 3, 2018 in Isiogugu Town Hall, Nteje, Oyi Local Government of Anambra State.
With the Supreme Court’s decision of February 11 this year, Ofumelu remains the PDP candidate for the Oyi:Ayamelu Federal Constituency, a position strengthened by two subsisting judgments of the Federal High Court given in favour of Ofumelu.
The first was given on January 7 this year by Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja in suit: FHC/ABJ/CS/1543/2018, where it was held that Ofumelu won the primary and forbade the substitution of his name with any other. INEC complied with the judgment and published Ofumelu’s name.
The second judgment was given on January 28 this year by Justice Owoebo of the Federal High Court, Awka, Anambra, which dismissed the suit by Morah, who had also contested the outcome of the primary.
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