An Anambra State politician, Obiora Okonkwo, has again failed in his judicial battle for the state’s senatorial seat, as the Court of Appeal Monday turned down his request.
Mr Okonkwo, who belongs to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had approached the appellate court, after the Federal High Court in Abuja set aside a previous judgement which declared him winner of the seat, in January.
The court presided over by John Tsoho had delivered a consent judgement, on December 12, 2017, affirming Mr Okonkwo as the occupant of the state’s central senatorial seat.
Exactly one month after the judgement was delivered on January 12, Mr Tsoho nullified his previous decision and ordered the conduct of elections into the senatorial seat, as planned by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).
Mr Tsoho said his reason for nullifying the previous decision was because ”he was misled into taking the said decision, in the first instance.”
Mr Okonkwo’s lawyers had threatened to appeal the judgement, describing it as an abuse of judicial process.
In the appeal, Mr Okonkwo contended that the trial court was wrong in setting aside the earlier judgement delivered December 12.
He urged the appellate court to issue an order nullifying the January 12 judgement and direct INEC to hand him a certificate of return, in compliance with the December 12 judgement.
The five-member panel of the appellate court, however refused his application, stating that the trial court was right in setting aside the said judgement.
According to the judgement, which was read by judge, Fredrick Oho, the appellate court ruled that it was the responsibility of the lower court to set the records straight, in a case where any infractions were noticed.
Following the conduct of elections into the senatorial seat, in January, the candidate for the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Victor Umeh, emerged winner.
How Okonkwo, party fought and lost the battle
Mr Okonkwo’s judicial battle for the seat began in 2014, when represented by his lawyers, the PDP candidate approached the Federal High Court in December that year, to contest the nomination of a fellow PDP member from the state, Unche Ekwunife, who was controversially picked as the party’s flag bearer in the 2015 senatorial elections.
Mr Okonkwo’s argument had been that he won the primaries conducted within the party and should have been presented as the authentic flag-bearer.
Ms Ekwunife was eventually declared winner of the election by INEC, but Mr. Okonkwo continued with his suit.
While Mr Okonkwo’s matter was ongoing before judge, Okon Abang, the candidate representing the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA), Victor Umeh, approached the Anambra State National Assembly election tribunal to contest the emergence of Ms Ekwunife as winner of the said election.
A three-member panel of judges in that tribunal, led by Nayai Alabama, upheld the election of Ms Ekwunife in October 2015.
Following the ruling of the tribunal, Mr Umeh appealed the tribunal’s decision at the Appeal Court in Enugu State.
In its ruling, however, the Appeal Court nullified the nomination of Ms Ekwunife and ordered a re-run election to be conducted within 90 days from the date the judgement was delivered on December 6, 2015.
The appellate court also ruled that Ms Ekwunife and her party, PDP, should not partake in the re-run election ordered to be conducted for the vacant position.
Shortly after that ruling, on January 8, 2016, Ms Ekwunife decamped to the All Progressives Congress, (APC).
Ms Ekwunife however contested the December 2015 Appeal Court judgement at the Supreme Court, resulting in the suspension of the election.
While her appeal was being handled at the Supreme Court, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court again delivered another ruling still on the same election matter.
The trial court, in an application filed by the PDP on the December 6 post-election judgement, allowed the inclusion of the party in the scheduled re-run election.
Dissatisfied with that judgement Mr Umeh again approached the Abuja Division of the Appeal Court which ordered a re-run election in its ruling on November 20.
A three-member panel of judges, headed byTinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, ordered the re-run election in the district within 90 days, and that the PDP be exempted.
It was based on that ruling that the January 13, 2018 re-run election brought Mr Umeh in, as the authentic occupant of the seat.
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