By Andy Chukwu
A Federal High Court in Abuja Wednesday has declared that the Senator-elect representing Delta North senatorial district, Peter Nwaoboshi was not the real candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last National assembly elections.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed in his judgment held that Nwaoboshi who is a serving senator was not the winner of the October 2, 2018 PDP primary held to select candidate for the 2019 general election.
Justice Mohammed subsequently ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to publish the name of Ned Nwoko as candidate of the PDP, having established that Nwoko scored majority of the lawful votes at the primary election.
The court also ordered Nwaoboshi to stop parading himself as the candidate of the PDP for the senatorial zone.
Nwoko through his counsel Ahmed Raji (SAN), had dragged INEC, PDP and Nwaoboshi before the court praying for an order to stop INEC from publishing or further publishing the name of Nwaoboshi as the PDP candidate for Delta North senatorial district.
Nwoko also asked for another order compelling the PDP to forward his name to INEC as the authentic candidate of the party for the senatorial district in the 2019 general election.
The plaintiff who predicated his suit on seven grounds, which were supported by a 20-paragraph affidavit evidence and five exhibits, claimed that he was screened and cleared for the Delta North senatorial district by the PDP Electoral Committee.
He claimed among other things, that at the end of the primary election, he scored 453 votes to defeat his closest rival, Nwaoboshi who scored 405 while Paul Osaji came third with 216 votes.
Nwoko, however, claimed that to his surprise, the PDP jettisoned the result of the primary election and forwarded Nwaoboshi’s name as its candidate for the senatorial district to INEC.
He disclosed that all efforts to redress the injustice through the party’s appeal panel were unsuccessful. In their defence, the respondents faulted the suit of the plaintiff on the grounds that it was statute-barred since it was not filed within the 14 days provided for by law.
They also claimed that the suit constituted an abuse of court process since the plaintiff had earlier filed a similar suit at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, which was struck out.
However, delivering judgment, the court held that the case of the plaintiff was not statute-barred and did not also amount to forum shopping.
Justice Mohammed said the plaintiff’s case is not against the conduct of the October 2, 2018 primary but the continuous display of the name of the third defendant (Nwaoboshi) as candidate of the PDP for the senatorial zone for the purpose of the 2019 general election.
Justice Mohammed said he was satisfied with the Certified True Copies (CTC) of the ballot papers used for the primary election and made available to the court by the plaintiff to establish his case.
The judge observed that the PDP though disputed the claims of Nwoko on the ballot papers, the same PDP however failed to produce ballot papers used for the election when ordered to do so in December, 2018.
Subsequently, Justice Mohammed having held that the plaintiff has established that he was the winner of the October 2, 2018 primary is entitled to his claim and consequently granted the relief sought by Nwoko.
The court earlier dismissed preliminary objections filed by the defendants including that on jurisdiction.
But in a swift reaction, Nwaoboshi has appealed to his teeming supporters and the people of Delta North to remain calm in the face of what he described as judicial rascality that would not stand the test of time when appealed against.
Nwaoboshi, in a statement issued yesterday by his legislative assistant, Onyeluka Igbonoba, argued that in the PDP senatorial primary election conducted on October 2, 2018, Nwaoboshi, Nwoko and Osaji, scored 506, 453 and 216 votes, respectively.
The statement said Nwoko proceeded to a Federal High court in Abuja on December 11, to challenge the outcome of the primary election, adding that since the constitution allows the challenge of all primary election to be brought before any court of competent jurisdiction within 14 days after the conduct of the primary election, Nwoko and his legal team filed out of time.
“Ironically, the same Judge had dismissed two pre-election matters within the last six weeks for filing both matters out of time. Only the Judge can explain what came over him in this instant case,” the statement said.
“In making his strange pronouncements, the judge relied on a case officially discontinued by Nwoko and his legal team, and judicially struck out in an open court on December 10, 2018,” the statement alleged.
Nwaoboshi thanked the good people of Delta North for their support and love, and assured them that “no man born of a woman can fraudulently snatch away the victory given to him by God.”