The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove the name of Uche Nwosu as a governorship candidate in the last election held in Imo State.
Justice Inyang Ekwo voided Nwosu’s candidacy on the grounds of double nomination by two political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Action Alliance (AA), in violation of section 37 of the Electoral Act.
The ruling came as Nwosu, a son-in-law to the former governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, is challenging the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, in the March 11 poll at the Election Petition Tribunal, as the candidate of AA.
In his judgment on Monday, Justice Ekwo upheld the case of the plaintiffs, the Action People’s Party (APP) and its Deputy National Chairman, Mr Uche Nnadi, to the effect that Nwosu’s governorship candidature was null and void on the grounds of multiplicity of nominations as a governorship candidate of both the APC and AA.
According to him, the nomination of Nwosu by AA as a governorship candidate is invalid, null and void, having been made at the pendency of similar nomination of the 2nd defendant (Nwosu) by the All Progressives Congress for the same position.
The judge noted that Nwosu affirmed to be the APC’s governorship candidate in his statement on oath sworn before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
The judge similarly declared that Nwosu “has not been validly nominated by the 3rd defendant (AA) as its governorship candidate for the state governorship election having been made at the pendency of the order of Justice Valentine Ashi of the Abuja High Court recognising the 2nd defendant as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the Imo 2019 governorship election.”
He noted that Nwosu participated in the APC’s primaries held on October 6, 2018 and was subsequently nominated as the party’s governorship candidate.
While laying claim to the APC’s governorship ticket, amidst stiff opposition from members of the party, he was said to have on Oct. 9, 2018, obtained an order of Justice Valentine Ashi (now deceased) of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, recognising him as the valid candidate of the party.
In the midst of this, Nwosu was also offered the ticket of the AA.
Justice Ekwo held that Nwosu, through his lawyers, failed to offer any valid rebuttal to the plaintiffs’ evidence that he was nominated by both the APC and the AA, while INEC filed no papers in the case.
The judge had earlier dismissed Nwosu’s preliminary objection and picked holes in the defence he and the AA separately filed against the substantive suit.
Dismissing the preliminary objection, Justice Ekwo ruled that the provision section 285(9) of the Constitution which stipulates that a pre-election case must be filed within 14 days of the occurrence of the event being complained of, was not applicable to the case.
The plaintiffs, APP and Nnadi, filed their suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/235/2019 on Feb. 27, 2019.
But Justice Ekwo held that the intention of section 285(9) of the Constitution cited by Nwosu’s legal team was not to make the court “to gloss over all acts prohibited by the Electoral Act”.
The judge, who ruled that the suit was not an abuse of court processes since it was filed to seek an interpretation of the provision of the Electoral Act, stated that by virtue of the provision of section 37 of the Electoral Act, the plaintiffs, in spite of the fact that they did not participate in the election, possessed the locus standi (legal right) to file their suit.