The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on Friday, declared Mr Valentine Ozigbo as the validly elected governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, for the November 6 governorship election in Anambra.
The appellate court made the declaration while delivering judgment in two appeals filed against the judgment of Justice Obiora Nwabunike of an Awka High Court which recognised Sen. Ugochukwu Uba as the party’s candidate in the November 6 governorship election.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban- Mensem, who led a three-man panel of justices held that the appeal filed by Valentine Ozigbo challenging the judgment of the Akwa High Court had merit.
The judgment of the Awka High Court had barred Ozigbo from parading himself as the PDP candidate in the Anambra gubernatorial election slated for November 6.
- Advertisement -
Consequently, the court set aside the judgment of the Awka High Court delivered on July 19.
Ozigbo and the PD, in two separate appeals, 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 he erred in law when he affirmed Uba as the candidate of the PDP in the forthcoming election.
The three justices, in a unanimous judgment, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to publish the names of Ozigbo and his running mate as duly nominated and elected candidates of the PDP for the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Anambra.
The court also awarded N10 million as exemplary cost in Ozigbo’s favour.
The court 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 Nwabunike for not only rubber stamping the decision of Justice Adeniyi but also sitting as an appeal over a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
“We set aside the position of Justice Obiorah Nwabunike of Anambra High Court Awka, delivered on July 19, which had dismissed Ozigbo as winner of the PDP primary,” she held.
According to Justice Dongban-Mensem, the decision of Justice Nwabunike is strange in law.
“We hereby affirm that Valentine Ozigbo is the duly elected candidate for the appellant (PDP) for the forthcoming Anambra governorship election slated for Nov. 6.”
The panel held that the PDP affirmed that it conducted primaries at the Prof. Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre, Awka, where Ozigbo and his running mate emerged winners and were so returned as candidates of the PDP.
The panel maintained that the only organ charged with the responsibility of conducting party primaries and election was a political party, insisting that there was nothing like parallel primary.
“Parallel primary is an aberration in law, it is not known to law.
“We have facts that the appellant in this case took all necessary steps to make sure that the primary election was conducted in line with party constitution and guidelines.
“It is said that you cannot put something on nothing, that is the fate of the purported primary held at St. Paul University.
“And so the primary which was conducted at St. Paul University, Awka, on account of a decision of a court of coordinate jurisdiction, which has been set aside by this court, is strange in law.
“Ozigbo is the duly elected candidate of the PDP and shall be so recorded and returned by INEC for the Nov. 6 election in Anambra.”
The court admonished INEC, saying it had a role to play in order to put an end to the spate of having different pronouncements by different courts.
“INEC has the duty to advice on the correct procedure and should resist being distracted from performing its duty according to the law.
“INEC should not undermine the decision of a political party who conducts an election and elects a person until such a decision is set aside by the highest court in the land.
“For example, if a governor loses at the tribunal, the governor does not vacate his office until such a case is decided by the apex court, this should be the same principle with regards to the electoral process.”
The justices berated the action of lawyers who engage in forum shopping rather than guide their clients appropriately.
“Counsel, who enable litigants to abuse court processes, have no excuse and should be disciplined.
“If the litigants know no better, counsel should advice them.
“This kind of attitude cannot continue as a word is enough for the wise.”
The justices also urged judicial officers, who decide to hear cases already determined by courts of coordinate jurisdiction as though they were sitting on appeals, to be circumspect in the discharge of their duties to save the country’s democracy.
The justices called on relevant judicial bodies to discipline all those found culpable in trying to destroy the institution of the judiciary.
Speaking to newsmen, counsel to Ozigbo, Mr Alex Ejesieme, (SAN) said that the call by the justices that judicial officers and lawyers engaging in forum shopping should be sanctioned was apt.
Also speaking to newsmen, former Anambra Governor, Mr Peter Obi, said that the decision of appellate court was fantastic and would serve as a deterrent to judges and lawyers who encourage litigants to engage in forum shopping.
According to him, as a product of the court himself, he can’t agree less with the court.
Justice Adeniyi of an FCT High Court had in a judgment 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, affirmed the earlier decision of Justice Adeniyi which recognized Umeaba’s faction as the authentic leadership of the PDP in Anambra to conduct the primary for the Nov. 6 governorship election.