The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday April 3, 2019 disqualified the Senator representing Delta North Senatorial District, Sen. Barr. Peter Nwaoboshi from going for a second tenure over illegal primary election and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately publish the name of the plaintiff, Prince Ned Nwoko as the authentic candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the said Senatorial District election.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, the Federal High Court held that Senator Peter Nwaoboshi was not validly and legally elected at the Senate Primary election conducted by PDP in Delta State in October, 2018. Having confirmed the illegality of fielding Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, the court ordered INEC to declare Prince Ned Nwoko as the authentic winner of the Senate Primary Election.
In addition, the high court went further to order Sen. Nwaoboshi who was the 3rd defendant in the case, to stop parading himself as the candidate of PDP for the Delta North Senatorial District election.
The court confirmed that the plaintiff had a pending pre-election suit alleging that PDP leadership in Delta State illegally submitted Sen. Nwaoboshi’s name to INEC after he lost the primary election.
In the Originating Summons he filed on December 11, 2018, Prince Nwoko, urged the court to among other things, determine whether INEC which supervised the primary election of the PDP and knew that he won majority votes cast, was not wrong to accept and publish Nwaoboshi’s name as PDP’s candidate for the Senatorial poll. He also urged the court to determine whether by mandatory provision of the Electoral Act, INEC was not bound to publish his name as the bonafide winner of the Delta North Senatorial primary, having secured the highest number of votes.
Besides, the plaintiff prayed the court to determine whether the continued display of Nwaoboshi’s name instead of his own, does not constitute a violation of the Constitution, Electoral Act and INEC’s Guidelines for the conduct of primary election. He asked the court to declare that the publication of Nwaoboshi’s name after he lost the primary election was illegal and unconstitutional. The plaintiff, aside alleging that Nwaoboshi used illegal delegates during the primary, told the court that the Senator-elect hired thugs to cause stampede when he learned of his imminent defeat. He described the result sheet that was eventually returned by organisers of the primary election, wherein he got 453 votes as against Nwaoboshi’s 506 votes, as “a fraud and sham”. The plaintiff subsequently secured an order of the court for all the ballot papers that were used for the primary election to be brought and counted before the court in the presence of representatives of all the parties.
Meanwhile, in his judgment, Justice Mohammed noted that though the order for production of the ballot papers was directed to the PDP, however, it was Nwaoboshi that vehemently opposed the order. The court held that PDP ought to have exhibited the ballot papers it said were used in the conduct of the election, but failed to comply with the order that directed it to produce the ballot papers to be recounted. Relying on section 167 of the Evidence Act, Justice Mohammed held that the action of the PDP indicated that the Plaintiff would have won if the ballot papers were brought before the court. He dismissed all the preliminary objections of PDP, Nwaoboshi and INEC lodged against the suit. The court held that the suit was not status barred, saying it has the requisite jurisdiction to entertain same.
The Defendants in their objections, argued that the suit was caught by section 285(9) of the 4th Alteration to the 1999 Constitution that prescribed 14 days for filing of pre-election matters. They argued that the suit was filed over 65 days after Nwaoboshi’s name was submitted to INEC. However, the court noted that the Plaintiff had earlier instituted an action before an Abuja High Court to challenge the outcome of the primary election. It held that though the Plaintiff subsequently withdrew that suit, he instituted the instant action after his complaint was ignored by PDP’s appeal panel.
However, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi has challenged the judgment which nullified his nomination as the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the Delta North Senatorial District election.
The lawmaker, who represents the Senatorial District in the National Assembly, asked the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja to set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court which nullified his candidacy.
Not satisfied with the judgment, the lawmaker in the Notice of Appeal listed five grounds of appeal. Senator Nwaoboshi, therefore, sought an order setting aside the judgment of the Federal High Court Abuja delivered on April 3, 2019.