CASE TITLE: OKEKE & ANOR v. NWACHUKWU & ORS (2023) LPELR-61233(CA)
JUDGMENT DATE: 4TH NOVEMBER, 2023
PRACTICE AREA: ELECTION PETITION
LEAD JUDGMENT: BIOBELE ABRAHAM GEORGEWILL, J.C.A.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on election petition.
This is an appeal against the judgment of the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal, Imo State, sitting at Mararaba, Nasarawa State, Coram: Anthony Olotu Akpovi J., (Chairman), A. S. Kudu j., (Member) and Ibrahim Mohammed J., (Member) in Election Petition No. EPT/IM/HR/17/2023: Hon Austin Nwachukwu & Anor V. Hon Jonas Okeke & Others delivered on 10/9/2023.
On February 25, 2023, the 3rd Respondent conducted an election in the Ehime-Mbano / Ihitte – Uboma/ Obowo Federal Constituency, in which the 1st Appellant contested as the candidate of the 2nd Appellant, PDP, while the 1st Respondent contested as the candidate of the 2nd Respondent, Labour Party. At the conclusion of the questioned election, the 1st Appellant was returned and declared the winner of the election by the 3rd Respondent, INEC, having scored the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.
The 1st and 2nd Respondents were disappointed with the outcome of the questioned election and, by way of an Election Petition filed on March 18, 2023, challenged the return and declaration of the 1st Appellant by the 1st Respondent as the winner of the questioned election on grounds alleging that the election and return of the 1st Appellant were invalid by reason of substantial non-compliance with the provisions of Section 84(5)(C)(i) of the Electoral Act 2022.
Upon service of the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ petitions, the 1st Appellant as Respondent filed his reply to the petition on April 24, 2023, while the 2nd Appellant filed its reply to the petition on April 18, 2023. In response, the 1st and 2nd Respondents as petitioners, filed their replies to the Respondents. The Appellants vehemently denied the allegations of the 1st and 2nd Respondents and averred that the 1st Appellant was qualified and was duly nominated as the candidate of the 2nd Appellant at the question election, in which he lawfully participated, scored the majority of the valid lawful vote cast and was validly declared and returned as the duly elected person by the 3rd Respondent, INEC.
By their pleadings, the parties duly joined issues and the 1st and 2nd parties’ petitions proceeded to the pre-hearing session, at the conclusion of which the matter proceeded to trial. At the trial, the 1st and 2nd Respondents, as Petitioners, in proof of their case called the 1st Respondent as their sole witnesses, who testified as PW1, and tendered some documents, which were admitted in evidence as Exhibits, and closed their case. In his defense, the 1st Appellants as Respondent called Chief Abanili David Onwuzurike as his sole witness, who testified as RW1, and tendered some documents, which were admitted as and closed his defense. See pages 1360-1368 in Volume 2 of the Records of Appeal.
At the conclusion of the trial, the parties filed and exchanged their final written addresses, which were duly filed by them, and on 10/9/2023, the Tribunal delivered its judgment, wherein the petition filed by the 1st and 2nd Respondents as Petitioners against the 1st and 2nd Appellants as Respondents, was granted and the declaration and return of the 1st Appellant of the 2nd Appellant by the 3rd Respondent as the winner of the questioned election was nullified on the ground that he was, at the time of the questioned election, not qualified to contest the said election, herein hence this appeal.
ISSUE(S) FOR DETERMINATION:
The appeal was determined on the following issues:
“1. Whether the lower Tribunal was right to have held that Ground ii and Relief 1 of the petition are valid?
- Whether the lower Tribunal was correct in declaring the sponsorship of the 1st Appellant by the 2nd Appellant invalid
- Whether the lower Tribunal was right to have assumed jurisdiction to hear and determine the Petition which is based on and/or bordered on the issue of the primary election of the 2nd Appellant, which is a pre-election matter, on the nomination and sponsorship of the 1st Appellant by the 2nd Appellant?”
Having resolved all the issues against the Appellants, the appeal was dismissed for lack of merit.
• ELECTORAL MATTERS – POLITICAL PARTY PRIMARY – Effect where a political party fails to comply with provisions of the Electoral Act in the conduct of its primaries
• ELECTION PETITION – DISQUALIFICATION OF CANDIDATE – Proper order where a returned candidate is disqualified by an election Tribunal/Court; whether the trial Tribunal/Court has discretion over same
• ELECTION PETITION – QUALIFICATION OF A CANDIDATE – Position of the law on the dual/concurrent jurisdiction of both the election petition tribunal and the Federal High Court over issues of qualification and locus standi regarding same