*Tells INEC to stop acting on orders of trial court
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, has declared Valentine Ozigbo as the authentic candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming November 6 governorship election in Anambra State.
The appellate court made the declaration yesterday while delivering ruling in two appeals filed against the judgment of Justice Obiora Nwabunike of Anambra State High Court in Awka, which recognised Senator Ugochukwu Uba as the party’s candidate in the November 6 governorship poll.
Both Ozigbo and the PDP, in two separate suits marked: CA/AW/223/2021 and CA/AW/234/2021, had approached the appellate court to challenge the decision of Justice Nwabunike, on the grounds that the lower court erred in law when it arrived at a decision affirming Uba as candidate of the PDP in the forthcoming election.
While the PDP in its own suit argued that it conducted its primary in accordance with the provisions of the law and its guidelines on June 26 at the Professor Dora Akunyuli Women Center, Ozigbo claimed he emerged candidate of the party at that same primary having won majority of the votes cast.
They therefore urged the court to set aside the judgment of Justice Nwabunike and declare the primary held at the Professor Dora Akunyuli Women Center as legal, lawful and constitutional, and that the candidate from that primary be declared as candidate of the PDP in the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State.
Delivering judgment in the two appeals yesterday, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, held that the appeals were meritorious and after allowing them, went ahead to set aside the decision of Justice Nwabunike of the High Court of Anambra State which had earlier declared Senator Uba as PDP’s candidate.
The panel, in the unanimous decision delivered by President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, held that the primary election held at the Professor Dora Akunyuli Women Center, Awka, which produced Ozigbo as PDP candidate, was conducted in line with the law and the PDP guidelines.
While declaring as an aberration the parallel primary held at Saint Paul University, the Court of Appeal berated Justice Nwabunike for sitting as an appellate court over the judgment of Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court.
The panel faulted Justice Nwabunike for not only rubber-stamping the decision of Justice Adeniyi but also sitting as an appeal over a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
Justice Adeniyi of an FCT High Court had in a judgement ordered the Chukwudi Umeaba faction to conduct the June 26 primary which produced Uba, having sacked the PDP leadership in the state.
Similarly, Justice Nwabunike in his own judgment enforced the earlier decision of Justice Adeniyi, recognising Umeaba’s faction as the authentic leadership of the PDP in Anambra State to conduct the primary for the November 6 governorship poll.
But in their judgment, the three member panel held that it was convinced that the primary conducted by the PDP at the Professor Dora Akunyuli Women Center was valid having been done in compliance with the law and party guidelines.
The panel faulted the primary held at the Saint Paul University on the same day, which produced Uba because it was contrary to the law and the party’s guidelines, adding that INEC in line with the law supervised only the primary at Professor Dora Akunyuli Women Center.
While accusing politicians of forum-shopping, the panel wondered why a litigant would take a matter which happened in Anambra before a court in the FCT and then return to Awka to seek enforcement of Adeniyi’s judgment.
The panel took turn to take swipes at lawyers who enable litigants to abuse the court’s processes, stressing that relevant bodies like the NJC and the NBA must take decisive actions against culprits.
Justice Dongban-Mensem, while urging INEC not to allow itself to be distracted in preparation for the election, advised the Commission to wait for the decision of the final court in the land and not hurriedly rush to comply with the judgment of the trial court.
After granting the two appeals and setting aside the judgment of Justice Nwabunike delivered on July 19, 2021, the court accordingly ordered Uba to pay Ozigbo and PDP N10 million each as cost of the litigations.
PDP Savours Judgment
The PDP yesterday said it received with delight the judgement of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed Ozigbo’s candidature for the November 6, 2021 Anambra State governorship election.
The party in a statement, signed by Kola Ologbondiyan, the National Publicity Secretary, commended the judiciary for restoring peace and unity in the PDP, as well as strengthening the confidence of the people in the PDP ahead of the election.
The PDP noted that with the judgement, the time had come for all members, critical stakeholders and teeming supporters of the party to unite as a family to work in the interest of the party and its candidate, Ozigbo, knowing that the people of Anambra State were waiting for the PDP to restore the loses of the past years under the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
The PDP thanked all stakeholders of the party for their resilience in keeping its ranks closed despite the challenges, while enjoining all members to put the past behind and work in the renewed hope that awaits them on November 6.