Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has sacked the senator-elect representing Delta North Senatorial District on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Nwaoboshi.
In his place, the court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to publish the name of Ned Nwoko as a candidate of the PDP, having established the fact before the court that Nwoko scored a majority of the lawful votes at the primary election.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed who delivered the Judgment on Wednesday, held that Nwaoboshi who is a serving senator was not the winner of October 2, 2018, PDP primary held to select a candidate for the 2019 general election.
The court also ordered Nwaoboshi to abstain from parading himself as the candidate of the PDP for the senatorial zone.
The Judge had earlier dismissed preliminary objections filed by the defendants including that challenging its jurisdiction to adjudicate on the dispute.
In a suit filed by his counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN), Nwoko who listed INEC, PDP and the sacked senator as defendants, asking the court for an order to stop the electoral body from publishing or further publishing the name of Senator Nwaoboshi as the candidate for Delta North senatorial district.
Nwoko also asked for another order compelling the PDP to forward his name to INEC as the authentic candidate of the party for the senatorial district in the 2019 general election.
The plaintiff who predicated his suit on seven grounds which were supported by a 20- paragraph affidavit evidence and five exhibits, claimed that he was screened and cleared for the Delta North senatorial district by the PDP electoral committee.
He claimed among other things that at the end of the primary election, he scored 453 votes to defeat his closest rival, Peter Nwaoboshi who scored 405 while Paul Osaji came third with 216 votes.
Nwoko, however, claimed that to his surprise, the PDP jettisoned the result of the primary election and forwarded Nwaoboshi’s name as its candidate for the senatorial district.
He disclosed that all efforts to redress the injustice through the party’s appeal panel were unsuccessful.
In their defense, the respondents attacked the suit of the plaintiff on the grounds that it was statute barred since it was not filed within the 14 days provided for by law.
They also claimed that the suit constituted an abuse of court process since the plaintiff had earlier filed a similar suit at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court which was struck out.
However, delivering judgment, the court held that the case of the plaintiff was not statute barred and did not also amount to forum shopping.
According to Justice Mohammed, the plaintiff’s case was not against the conduct of the October 2, 2018 primary but the continuous display of the name of the third defendant (Nwaoboshi) as the candidate of the PDP for the senatorial zone for the purpose of the 2019 general election.
Justice Mohammed said he was satisfied with the Certified True Copies (CTC) of the ballot papers used for the primary election and made available to the court by the plaintiff to establish his case.
The judge observed that the PDP disputed the claims of Nwoko on the ballot papers. He said the same PDP, however, failed to produce ballot papers used for the election when ordered to do so in December, 2018.
Subsequently, Justice Mohammed, having held that the plaintiff had established that he was winner of the October 2, 2018 primary, was entitled to his claim and consequently granted the relief sought by Nwoko.