Raymond Ozoji, Awka
On 1st of November 2019 the Court of Appeal Enugu Division in Appeal NO: CA/E/EAPP/19/2019, per Hon. Justice Monica Bongban-Mensem JCA leading, Hon. Justice Ignatius Igwe Agube and Hon. Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar sacked Hon. Ayika Valentine as member representing Njikoka/Dunukofia/Anaocha federal constituency of Anambra State.
The legal battle that culminated into the Appeal NO: CA/E/EAPP/19/2019 commenced on the 18th October 2018 when Dr. Richard Egenti an aspirant in the primary election that brought about the nomination of Hon. Ayika as the candidate of PDP for the 2019 general election initiated an action at the FCT High Court in Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/3065/18 wherein he challenged the candidacy of Hon. Ayika.
The FCT High Court on 31st October 2018 gave judgment in favour of the Plaintiff.
The matter went to court of appeal in Appeal NO: CA/A/1041/2018 Between PDP V DR. RICHARD EGENTI &ANOR. On the 17th January 2019 the court of appeal upheld the judgment of the FCT High Court.
PDP finally went to the Supreme Court in Appeal No: SC 1330/2018 on the 19th of January 2019. The apex court gave its judgment on the 11th February 2019 wherein Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/3065/18, was declared incompetent and a nullity since it was statute barred having been filed outside the 14 days allowed by section 285(9) of the Constitution. Therefore the trial court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to have entertained the matter in the first place.
With the order of the FCT High Court having been nullified and the entire suit struck out, the Supreme Court also struck out the ensuing appeal on the ground that there was no judgment to appeal against.
In the words of the Law Lords “you cannot add something unto nothing”. The Supreme Court judgment meant that everything about the matter, that is the candidacy of Hon. Ayika in the questioned election is settled forever.
“He referred us to section 235 of the Constitution. After the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared Hon. Ayika the winner of the election for his federal constituency, the candidate of the rival party, APGA, Hon. Ferdinand Dozie Nwankwo filed Petition No: EPT/AN/HR/07/2019 at Awka wherein he challenged the candidacy of Hon. Ayika.”
“In other words he claimed that PDP did not sponsor any candidate in the general election for Njikoka/Dunukofia/Anaocha federal constituency.
“On the 5th of September 2019 the Election Petition Tribunal per HON. JUSTICE E. O. HARUNA, HON. JUSTICE O. O. OLUSANYA and Hon. JUSTICE DESTINA O. OKO ruled in favour of Hon. Ayika to the extent that the apex Court had stamped a seal of finality on the issue of who was the candidate of PDP in the questioned election for the federal constituency.
“As was stated earlier, the Court of Appeal Enugu Division on appeal to the Court by Hon. Nwankwo ruled that Hon. Ayika was not a candidate in the election; therefore all the votes cast for PDP were wasted votes. That his certificate of return be withdrawn and issued to Hon. Dozie Nwankwo.
“The issue in contention is whether the 3rd Respondent was sponsored by the 2nd Respondent.
“Secondly, the court also stated that the return of 3rd Respondent at the primaries was challenged and the 1st Respondent entered no candidate for the 2nd Respondent and that was the situation up to the conduct of the election.
“At the 2nd paragraph on page 32 the court stated that ‘However, only up until Dr. Richard Egenti took up his suit before the FCT High Court.’
“In response to the Dr. Richard Egenti’s suit the 1st Respondent took off the name of the 3rd Respondent from the list of candidates.
At the 1st paragraph on page 33 the submission of the name of the 3rd Respondent by the 2nd Respondent on the 18th October 2018 a period of 60 days before the election of 23rd February 2019 had been interrupted at the suit of Dr. Richard Egenti.
This led to the removal of the name of the 3rd Respondent from the list of final contestants by the 1st Respondent an action which the 2nd Respondent failed to take steps to redress
“The 2nd and 3rd Respondents failed to take steps to secure an order of the court to maintain the status quo in order to keep the name of the 3rd Respondent on the list”.
“The Supreme Court decision which the learned Tribunal refers to as placing the name of 3rd Respondent back on the list came on the 11/02/19 a period outside the 60 days and outside the time provided by section 34 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
“However, fundamentally, there was no order from the Supreme Court restoring the name of the 3rd Respondent to the list of final candidates”
“There is no court order therefore; the 2nd Respondent had no candidate in the said election”.
“The Certificate of Return issued to the 3rd Respondent was issued without the force of law”.
The pertinent questions that agitate the mind of keen observers, among others, are; What does it mean for a political party to sponsor a candidate in an election ?
Does Hon. Dozie Nwankwo, a candidate of APGA has the right to question the nomination and sponsorship of Hon. Ayika by his party PDP?
What is the implication of the Supreme Court judgment ?
Was there an error on the part of the Supreme Court not tohave ordered that Hon. Ayika Valentine was the candidate of PDP as the Court of Appeal questioned ?
Was INEC right to have obeyed the Court of Appeal judgment against that of the Supreme Court?
The legal quagmire here for PDP and Hon. Ayika is what to do knowing that, while, by section 246(3) of the Constitution the decision of the Court of Appeal is final in Legislative Election Petition matters , the Supreme Court decision is, equally, by section 235 of the same Constitution also final in pre-election issues.
From the documents made available by PDP, it is clear that the leading opposition party has gone back to the same court that gave the judgment and asked the court to set aside its judgment on the ground that it was a nullity and is liable to be set aside. On the grounds that the Supreme Court in SC/1330/2018: Peoples Democratic Party v. Dr. Richard Egenti had declared the question concerning the nomination and candidacy of the applicant as incompetent and accordingly struck out the suit in FCT/HC/CV/3065/2018, which entertained the question and the appeal emanating from it in CA/A/1041/2018 and yet in spite of that, and in spite of the constitutional finality of orders of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal revived the same question in CA/E/EAPP/19/2019 and proceeded to determine same and made it the basis of its decision against the Applicant.
The Court of Appeal in hearing an appeal from the Election Petition Tribunal entertained a suit which subject matter was the candidacy of the applicant and which was a cause of action, by the time institution, barred by statute.
The Court of Appeal in its judgment in CA/E/EAPP/19/2019 rested its decision upon acts purported to be done under the High Court decision in FCT/HC/CV/3065/2018 when the Supreme Court had made an order striking out the entire suit for being incompetent and the decision of the Court of Appeal resulting there-from as incompetent.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal in CA/E/EAPP/19/2019 was a nullity in that it constitutes a disobedience to the judgment of the Supreme Court in SC.1330/2018: People Democratic Party v. Dr. Richard Egenti and in no way an enforcement thereof by resting its decision upon acts purported to have been done under the High Court decision in FCT/ HC/CV/3065/2018 which is a decision voided by the Supreme Court.
The competency of the question of the Applicant’s candidacy for People Democratic Party in the 23rd February 2019 election into the Federal House of Representatives for Njikoka/Dunukofia/Anaocha Federal Constituency which was revisited by the Court of Appeal in CA/E/EAPP/19/2019 had been determined and settled by the Supreme Court in its judgment titled People Democratic Party v. Dr. Richard Egenti in appeal No SC/1330/2019 on the 11th February 2019.
The question of the 1st Applicant’s candidacy for the 2nd Applicant (People Democratic Party) was entertained by the Court of Appeal in CA/E/EAPP/19/2019 at the instance of the 2nd respondent, who was not an aspirant and hence without locus-standi which invariably robbed the Court of Appeal in the said CA/E/EAPP/19/2019, jurisdiction in the appeal.
This move by PDP and its candidate in the 2019 general election is indeed novel and unique in our jurisprudence. On the face of what PDP has initiated, it is clear that the matter is a tussle between the powers of finalities between section 246(3) on the side of the Court of Appeal and section 235 on the side of the Supreme Court on the same subject matter of nomination and sponsorship.
Either way the decision will definitely be a milestone reference point for the bar and bench. Will PDP and Hon. Ayika finally get justice? Only time will tell.