Court refuses to sack Andy Ubah, Stella Oduah from Senate

Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday dismissed the suit seeking to sack Senators Andy Ubah, Stella Uduah and others from the National Assembly.

Senator Annie Okonkwo and others had through their counsel,  Chief Asam Asam (SAN) dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ubah, Oduah and 15 lawmakers in the National Assembly and Anambra State House of Assembly before the court, asking the court to invalidate their nominations.

Justice Ademola, in a judgement delivered on Friday dismissed the suit, filed by Senator Annie Okwonkwo, Chris Ubah and 42 others for lacking in merit.

In the judgement that lasted for about an hour, Justice Ademola held that the plaintiffs’ claim that they are the rightfully nominated candidate of the PDP in the National and State House of Assembly election in the March and the April 11, 2015 Presidential election held in the state cannot stand in the face of the law having been unlawfully nominated by the state executive of the party.

The court held that it has been established in law that the power to conduct primary election, nomination of candidates and submission of list of candidates to INEC is vested on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of political parties.

The judge said in the instant case the plaintiffs, having emerged from a primary conducted by the state executive of the PDP, submitted themselves to an act of illegality and as such cannot seek legal backing for such a nomination.

The trial judge referred to the Supreme Court judgements of 29th January 2016 and the ruling of the apex court delivered on February 24, 2016 where the issue of the powers of the PDP NEC and the state executive committee was ventilated to the effect that the state organ of the party has no power under the constitution of the party and the Electoral Act to nominate candidates for the purpose of general election.

Justice Ademola said since the Supreme Court had made the clarification  via an order, such order must be obeyed by persons and statutory bodies.

According to the judge, “it is settled law that  the state executive committee organ of a political party lacks  power to nominate candidates for an election. It is only the primary election conducted by the national executive committee of a party, that is valid to be submitted  to INEC for the purpose of an election and no other arm”.

The plaintiffs’ claims to the effect that they are the validly nominated  candidates of the PDP for the 2015 general election cannot stand in the face of the law, because the Anambra State  PDP exco has no legal right or legitimacy to conduct primary elections to nominate candidates.

“In the instant case, it appears that the state exco do not to know their limit with their flagrant abuse of power and usurpation of the functions of the national executive committee of the party.

“Political parties should educate their state executive committees on the limit of their powers so as to stop them from embarking on acts of illegality and nullity”, the judge said.

He added that the claim of the plaintiffs that their names had been published by INEC before the national executive committee of PDP submitted the names of the serving lawmakers to the election umpire has no legal consequences, because they failed to show the legality of their candidate by their nomination form.

Senator Okwonkwo, Chris Ubah and 42 others  had asked the court to declare that their names had been published by the electoral body as candidates of PDP and cannot be removed without a court order.

They prayed the court for an order of mandatory injunction directing INEC to restore their names as candidates sponsored by PDP for the 2015  general elections.

The plaintiffs also applied for an order of injunction restraining INEC from accepting or publishing any other  name as the sponsored candidates of the PDP in their place without any order of court.

INEC and PDP had, in their objection to the originating summons of the plaintiffs asked the court to dismiss the suit brought before it by Senator Annie Okonkwo and 43 others.

Okonkwo and his colleagues were challenging the validity of primary election conducted by the PDP, which produced Senators Andy Ubah, Stella Oduah, and others, as candidates for the 2015 National Assembly elections.

Both INEC and PDP claimed that the suit by Okonkwo and 43 others was a gross abuse of court process on the grounds that the issues raised by the plaintiffs had already been resolved by the Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs also applied for an order of the court restraining INEC from accepting the nomination of Ubah and his colleagues in the national and state assemblies on the ground that they were not nominated by the state executive committee of the PDP led by Mr. Ejike Oguebegu.

The Plaintiffs claimed that since Oguebegu-led Anambra State PDP committee conducted the primary election, nominated them and their names published by INEC, it was wrong in law for their names to be withdrawn from INEC’s list.

They also demanded in their suit that the purported removal of their names from the INEC list violated provisions of the law and should be set aside while their names are restored.

While adopting final addresses, INEC claimed that the case of Okonkwo and other Plaintiffs had been overtaken by a Supreme Court judgment delivered on January 29, 2016  by Justice John Iyang-Okoro.

INEC’s Counsel, Dr. Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN) while adopting the final address of the electoral body, held that the case of the plaintiffs constituted a gross abuse of court process since the issue in contention had already been resolved by the Supreme Court.

INEC claimed that in that Supreme Court judgment , Justice Okoro made it clear that the power to conduct a primary election for the nomination of candidates for national assembly elections is vested in the national executive committee of a political party and not in the state executive of any party.

Also in its final argument, Counsel to PDP, Emeka Etiaba (SAN) asked the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that the right organ of the Party vested with power, conducted the primary election that produced the nomination of the national lawmakers from the State for the 2015 election.

PDP also submitted that the purported claim of the plaintiffs as the right candidates to be in the National Assembly cannot stand in law because the purported primary election conducted by the Obuebegu-led state executive committee was not known to any law.

Counsel for Senators Andy Uba, Stella Oduah and other defendants in the suit, unanimously adopted the position of INEC and PDP and urged the Judge to dismiss the suit.