Anambra Central: Court vacates judgement declaring Okonkwo senator

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A Federal High Court on Friday vacated it’s consent judgment declaring Dr. Obiora Okonkwo as winner of the Anambra Central Senatorial District.

Justice John Tsoho, who vacated his December 13, 2017 judgment at the instance of an application by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said his court was mislead and deceived into giving the said judgment.

But Okonkwo in a swift reaction has vowed to challenge the ruling at the court of Appeal.

Justice Tsoho held that having realised that there were three judgments of the Court of Appeal on the subject matter, all ordering INEC to conduct a rerun for the Anambra Central Senatorial district within 90 days, he is bound by the decision by the decisions of the court of Appeal, based on the age long principles of sterile decisis.

Justice Tsoho agreed that although Okonkwo was not a party to those judgments, his political platform, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was a party.

”I am bound to follow the age long principle of judicial precedent.

“On November 20, 2017, the Court of Appeal ordered that fresh election be conducted into the Anambra Central Senatorial district within 90 days. Okonkwo is a member of the PDP which was a party to the appeal and cannot claim ignorant of these decisions. Indeed, the PDP has appealed against the judgments of the Court of Appeal.

‘To that extent, steps taken by the plaintiff/respondent (Okonkwo) were deliberately misconceived and calculated to deceive this court. This is enough grounds to set aside the consent judgment.

‘That he was never been a party in the proceedings is in material as his party, the PDP was a party to the proceedings. Besides, he has not denied being a candidate of the PDP, so if his interest is affected, it lies in an appeal before the Supreme Court.

“Accordingly, grounds 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the applicant motion are upheld and the consent judgment of December 13, 2017 is vacated and set aside.

‘The substantive suit is adjourned indefinitely pending the outcome of the appeal by the PDP at the Supreme Court.”

 

Before arriving at the final pronouncements, John Tsoho dismissed all the objections raised against INEC’s motion for variation of the consent judgment by counsel to Okonkwo, Sabastine Hon (SAN), who was with Festus Keyamo (SAN) ‎as well as counsel to PDP and Mrs. Ekwunife.

For instance, the Judge ‎disagreed with their arguments that his court was funtus officio, saying that being a consent judgment which was not based on the merit of the case, he has the requisite jurisdiction to vary it.

He further held that he was not bound by the ruling of his brother Judge, Justice Ahmed Muhammed, delivered on March 9, 2015, which the plaintiff submitted had not been appealed upon.

Justice Tsoho further disagreed with counsel to the respondents that the motion by INEC was an abuse of court processes and not competent.

Okonkwo, had in December, 2014 filed the suit a pre-election matter following his substitution with Uche Ekwunife as the PDP candidate at the primary of December 7, 2014.

He said the action is against the provisions of sub-section 4 (c) (ii) of Section 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010, and Part V Par. 29(c)(e) and (g) of the Electoral Guidelines for Primary Elections 2014 of the PDP.

The pre- election matter which commenced in 2014 was brought by Okonkwo under section 87 of the Electoral Act.

The said section 87 of the Act gives candidates or aspirants of political parties who were unlawfully denied nomination, right to approach a court with a view to seek redress.

Specifically, during the hearing of the suit, counsel for the 1st and 2nd defendants and the 4th defendants respectively, Messer I.E. Umeji and E.O. Okoli stated their non opposition to the motion for judgment and also adopted the processes that had been filed by the respective defendants to the effect of not contesting the plaintiff’s suit.

Also counsel to INEC (3rd defendant), confirmed that his client did not  filed any counter affidavit to the plaintiff’s matter.

He added that the 3rd defendant, as an impartial umpire is, not inclined into delving into such matters and that as a responsible organisation, INEC is ready to abide by the decision of the court.

Justice Tsoho consequently entered judgment for the plaintiff and granted his reliefs  in accordance with the prayers which arise from proceedings related to the said Anambra Central senatorial district election.

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