The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP today suffers two major tragedies as the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin, Edo State, on Friday dismissed an appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, challenging the discontinuation of the recounting of ballot papers used during the September 28 governorship election in four local government areas of the state, while he Supreme Court also removed Sopuluchukwu Ezeonwuka of the Peoples Democratic Party from representing Orumba North/South, Anambra Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
The PDP and Ize-Iyamu have approached the court to challenge Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress as the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The governorship election petitions tribunal, led by Justice Ahmed Badamasi, had on February 10 ordered the stoppage of the recounting exercise for Akoko-Edo, Egor, Etsako West and Etsako East Local Government Areas, following the expiration of the 14 days allotted the PDP and Ize-Iyamu, who were the petitioners, to prove their case.
The petitioners had, through their counsel, Yusuf Alli (SAN), filed an appeal seeking an order to direct that the recounting of the used ballot papers for the identified LGAs be completed.
But in its verdict on Friday evening, the court held that the decision of the electoral tribunal was right as it was anchored on the provision of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
Justice Mudashiru Nasiru, who read the ruling, held that the time allotted to each of the parties was sacrosanct and, therefore, limited the petitioners’ time to prove their case.
He ruled that any action done outside the prescribed time would be a nullity and that the tribunal was right to stop the recounting of the ballot papers after the 14 days had elapsed.
He said, “Whatever any party should do to prove its case must be done within the time produced by the schedule. Once a party commences, the time prescribed will start to run.”
The appellate court, therefore, stated that the appeal was unmeritorious and thereby dismissed.
“The two issues for determination are resolved against the appellants. The appeal is unmeritorious and lacked merit. It is hereby dismissed,” It added.
Meanwhile, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun in an appeal filed by filed against Ezeonwuka’s election by a member of the party, Chief Ben-Nwankwo, in Abuja on Friday ruled that Nwankwo’s name was wrongly substituted by the PDP with the first respondent (Ezeonwuka) after he had obtained the nomination of the party to contest the National Assembly election.
Dissatisfied with the Feb. 20, 2015 judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja and the decision of the Court Appeal to uphold it, Nwankwo approached the apex court.
“Conclusion: having resolved the key issues in favour of the appellant, the appeal succeeds and it is hereby allowed.
“The judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on June 26, 2016, is hereby set aside for being a nullity having exceeded its jurisdiction by granting relief not sought by the parties before it.
“This follows that the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, delivered on Feb.20, 2015 was delivered without jurisdiction and it’s a nullity. It is equally set aside.
“The Originating Summons filed on Dec.15, 2014 in FHC/Abj/CS/1013/2014 is hereby struck out’’, she said.
Justice Kekere-Ekun further held that: “the consequence of the above order is that the parties shall revert to the status quo ante.
“The existing position before the first respondent (Ezeonwuka) filed a suit at the trial court was that not only was the appellant’s name submitted to INEC for the March 28, 2015, election, he won the election.
“It was at the point of being issued the Certificate of Return that he was confronted by a letter conveying the order of the trial court stopping that action.
“In the circumstances, it is hereby ordered that the appellant, Chief Ben Nwankwo, being the candidate duly sponsored by the PDP in that election is entitled to be issued with the certificate of return.
“The second respondent is hereby ordered to issue Chief Nwankwo a certificate of return in respect of the National Assembly election held March 28, 2015, forthwith,” she said.
The judge also further said: “the first respondent (Ezeonwuka) is hereby ordered to vacate the seat of the Orumba North/South Federal Constituency of Anambra State in the National Assembly forthwith’’.
“It is further ordered that Ezeonwuka shall refund to the National Assembly all monies collected by him by way of salaries and allowances since he took the seat within 90 days.
“And finally, a fine of N500, 000 is awarded in favour of the appellant against the first respondent,” the judge held.
The appellant had asked the court to decide whether the lower court had jurisdiction to deliver judgment dated June 26, 2015, without considering and determining pending motion on notice dated June 18, 2015.
The appellant had in that motion sought permission of the court to appeal against the judgment of the trial court as an interested party.
He also urged the court to decide whether the court below was entitled to determine who should be the sponsored candidate of the party.