On Thursday, December 17, 2015, Hon. (Engr.) Emeka Emmanuel Nwaobi, was finally declared the winner of the April 11, 2015, Delta State House of Assembly Election for the Aniocha North State Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, by the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, Benin Division, in Benin city, Edo State.
Delivering judgment on the Appeal filed by Nwaobi Emeka Emmanuel (1st Appellant) and the Peoples Democratic Party (2nd Appellant), challenging the declaration of Osi Samuel Okocha (1st Respondent) of the Accord Party (2nd Respondent) by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC (3rdRespondents), the Court of Appeal Judges panel of Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua, Justice Stephen Adah and Justice Hamma Akawu Barka, granted the prayers of the 1st Appellant Emeka Emmanuel Nwaobi and subsequently declared him as the validly elected Member of the Aniocha North State constituency in the April 11, 2015 Delta State House of Assembly election.
The Appeal court Justices averred that it had jurisdiction and was properly constituted to hear the Appeal, due to the Appellants apparent disgust with the outcome of the election conducted on April 11, 2015 by the 3rd respondent, to the membership of the Delta State House of Assembly for Aniocha North Constituency of Delta State in which the 1st Appellant and the 1st Respondent participated on the platform of their respective parties, i.e Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Accord Party.
According to the Appellate Court Justices, the National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections petitions Tribunal, sitting in Asaba and headed by the Tribunal Judges, Hon. Justices Boufini as Chairman, I.A. Kangiwa and L.O. Ogundana, had earlier delivered its ruling on November 20, 2015, on the petition challenging the declaration of Osi Okocha of the Accord Party as the winner of the April 11, 2015 Aniocha North House of Assembly election, dated 28/4/2015 preceding this appeal, which was filed by the Appellants.
Delivering the Appeal Court judgment, on the Appeal, CA/B/EPT/335/2015, December 17, 2015, as contained in the Certified True Copy of the Appeal Court Judgment, obtained exclusively by FLASHPOINT News Online and before the team of Counsels; Robert Emukperuo Esq., E. Okwhoriole Esq., I. Igbinigie (Miss) and Ochuko Akpobasa Esq., (for the Appellants, Emeka Nwaobi/ PDP); and R.O Isenalumhe Esq., ( for 1st Respondent, Osi Okocha), Olusola Rhiogbere Esq., (2nd Respondent, Accord Party) and Chukwuma Webb Esq., (3rd Respondent, INEC), Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua said as follows:
“Consequently, in view of the observation of this Court that there was substantial non-compliance with the provision of Section 85 (1), of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) by the 2nd Respondent to the which negated the 1st Respondents qualification to participate in the election of the 11th April, 2015, conducted by the 3rdRespondent, to the membership of the Delta State House of Assembly for Aniocha North Constituency of the Delta State House of Assembly, for Aniocha North Constituency of Delta State, this appeal is hereby allowed. Accordingly, the judgment of the Tribunal delivered on 20th October, 2015 is hereby set aside. In its place, it is hereby ordered that:
- The return of the 1st Respondent, Okocha Samuel Osi of Accord Party, the 2nd Respondent, as the winner of the election to the membership of the State House of Assembly for Aniocha North State Constituency, Delta State, was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provision of Section 85 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010, (as amended)
- The Certificate of Return issued to the 1st Respondent Okocha Samuel Osi of Accord Party, the 2nd Respondent, as member Representing Aniocha North State Constituency, Delta State, is hereby voided/annulled
- All votes cast for the 1st and 2ndRespondents are invalid and ought not to have been counted. The only votes to be reckoned with are the votes cast for the Appeallants and other Politcal Parties and their respective candidates
- The 1st Appellant, Nwaobi Emeka Emmanuel, of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, 2NDPetitioner who scored the the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election to the membership of the State House of Assembly, for Aniocha North State Constituency Delta State, on the 11th April, 2015, ought to have been and is hereby returned elected as the member representing Aniocha North State constituency at the Delta State House of Assembly
- The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, shall forthwith issue a Certificate of Return to the 1st Appeallant, Nwaobi Emeka Emmanuel, of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, 2nd Appeallant, as the Member Representing the Aniocha North State Constituency at the Delta State House of Assembly.
- The 1st Appellant, Nwaobi Emeka Emmanuel, to be immediately sworn-in at the Delta State house of Assembly as the Member Representing Aniocha North Constituency of Delta State.
I make no order as to costs”, Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua had concluded.
Delta political watchers will recall that, following the conclusive outcome of the December 2014, Aniocha North House of Assembly primaries, in Issele-uku, Aniocha North LGA, Headquarters, including a successful litigation at the Federal High Court, Asaba, Engr. Emeka Nwaobi had been declared as the valid candidate and certified flag bearer of the PDP, for the April 11, 2015 Aniocha North, Delta State House of Assembly elections, by the Court and his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party.
Mr. Osi Okocha, who was one of the runners-up from that December 2014, primary, had then decamped to the Accord party and was subsequently given the party’s ticket to contest the Aniocha North House of Assembly election under the platform of the Accord party.
The April 11, 2015 Aniocha North House of Assembly election had been mired in huge controversy, including allegations of monumental electoral malpractices and at the end of the high-wire political scheming, Osi Samuel Okocha had been declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as the winner of the Aniocha North House of Assembly constituency election.
Apparently dissatisfied with the declaration, Engr. Emeka Nwaobi had promptly approached the State House of Assembly elections petitions Tribunal and filed a petition, challenging the declaration on several grounds, including non-compliance with the electoral laws as well as massive electoral malpractices during the election proper.
In an intriguing election petition process in which several contradictions and conflicting evidence had been provided by witnesses all through the trial, the Tribunal Judges, headed by Hon. Justices Boufini as Chairman, I.A. Kangiwa and L.O. Ogundana, Justice, had subsequently given ruling in favour of Osi Samuel Okocha, affirming him as the winner of the Aniocha North Delta State House of Assembly election, on the principal ground that the legal team of the petitioner Engr. Emeka Emmanuel Nwaobi had failed to prove their case of electoral irregularities and non-compliance with electoral laws, beyond reasonable doubt.
Engr. Nwaobi, not deterred by the fact that Osi Okocha had already been sworn-in as member representing Aniocha North in the Delta Legislature while the election petition process was still going-on and, also seeking to explore his legal, constitutional right to pursue his matter to its logical conclusion, then filed an Appeal with the Court of Appeal in Benin, Edo State, which was the final legal clearing House for all election matters at the level of the State House of Assembly elections.
Legal experts and luminaries have opined that it is trite law that no new application or submissions, by way of further and better affidavits in support of the original petition, can be frontloaded or tendered in an Appeal, except submissions already certified by affidavits and adopted by all parties, during pre-trial as substantive issues in the trial proper at the tribunal stage.
Thus it was that in the suit (CA/B/EPT/335/2015) filed by the legal team of Engr. Emeka Nwaobi at the Court of Appeal, Benin, the Appellants prayed the court to re-visit the issue of non-compliance and subsequently disqualify the candidate of the Accord Party on the grounds that the party violated sections 85(1) of the Electoral Acts 2010 (as amended), which provides that: “Every registered political party shall give the commission at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress, conference or meeting convened for the purpose of electing members of its executive committees, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices specified under this act.”
According to the Appellants, the Accord party breached this constitutional provision, having held their primaries less than 21 days after the notices they gave to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the holding of their primaries to choose candidates for the 2015 election.
The Appellants then asked the Court to determine whether the defendants did not violate “the requirement of at least 21 days notice of primary election, convention, congress, conference or meeting usually given to the first defendant, INEC, by the second defendant and other political parties in Nigeria is mandatory and binding.”
They further requested the court to resolve whether INEC’s acceptance and recognition of the Respondents on Appeal, as nominated candidate for the purpose of contesting 2015 general election into elective offices is not null, void, illegal, and unlawful.
In addition, the Appellants also asked the court to issue a perpetual injunction restraining the 1stRespondent, Osi Okocha from parading, presenting, or projecting himself as the valid elected member representing Aniocha North State Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly and consequently declare the 1st Appellant, Emeka Emmanuel Nwaobi, as the validly elected member representing Aniocha North State Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, as a result of non-compliance with the electoral laws by the Accord party and its candidate in the April 11, 2015 Aniocha North, Delta State House of Assembly election.
The rest, as they say, is now history as the Court of Appeal granted the prayers of Engr. Emeka Emmanuel Nwaobi and declared him the valid winner of the April 11, 2015 Aniocha North House of Assembly Election.
And in compliance with the order of the Court, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC accordingly presented the Certificate of Return to Emeka Emmanuel Nwabo as the winner and valid Representative of Aniocha North in the Delta State House of Assembly.
The official inauguration and swearing-in of Engr. Emeka Emmanuel Nwaobi as the Honourable Member representing Aniocha North Constituency at the Delta State House took place on Tuesday January 19th, 2016, when the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya, formally administered the oath of office to him and Hon. Omawumi Udoh, representing Warri South Constituency, at the Chambers of the Delta State House of Assembly, in a brief and well co-ordinated ceremony.
And with the formal inauguration and swearing-in of Hon. (Engr.) Emeka Emmanuel Nwaobi, all the directives of the Court of Appeal directives were fully complied with and indeed it did not come a moment too soon, as the newly sworn-in member, in his very first sitting, quickly endorsed the nomination and screening of a member of the Rural Development Agency from his constituency.
Speaking after the swearing-in, Hon. Nwaobi, confessed that while he had felt a certain sense of loss when the Fifth session of the Delta State House of Assembly was inaugurated in June last year, he was however optimistic that he would triumph in the pursuit of his mandate and today was a culmination of all the efforts and hard fought legal battles to ensure that the people of Aniocha North got the representative they had yearned for.
He equally pledged that he was prepared to step into the shoes of the immediate past member representing Aniocha North Constituency, Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei, who was also the Speaker of the DTHA for and while promising that he will perform his legislative functions with the interest of the people at heart, thanked the Aniocha North people for all their support and confidence in the face of the battles to reclaim the mandate, even as he assured that they will ever receive more dividends of democracy in his tenure as their representative.
“I feel highly elated and a huge sense of accomplishment with this swearing-in today. It has been a long and difficult battle to regain my mandate and I give God all the glory for today because it is only God that gives Power. I want to assure my good people of Aniocha North that I am fully prepared to step into the shoes of our immediate past representative, who was also the Speaker of the House and promise them that I will ensure that I dispense my legislative functions with the promotion of their interests as my major mandate,” he said.
Hon. Nwaobi, who had noted that what happened in the elections of April 11, was a robbery of his election victory, where he had won the election convincingly in nine out of the ten wards in Aniocha North local government area of the state and lost by only one vote to his opponent of the Accord Party, in the remaining ward, however stressed that he had put all that in the past with the Appeal Court ruling and his inauguration as a member of the Delta legislature, adding that he was now poised to commit himself fully to serving the people of Aniocha North as their representative.
“I am promising the people of Aniocha North that from today, they will begin to see the transformation and positive change they desire and by the grace of God, I will not disappoint them on my mandate”.
Indeed, the outpouring of love and goodwill by the people of Aniocha North, following the Appeal Court judgment are all clear testimony that they are now overwhelmingly convinced that they will enjoy the robust, vibrant, dynamic people-oriented representation and dividends of democracy, which they have long yearned for, with the emergence of Hon. Emeka Nwaobi as their Representative.
This feeling which was also carried over into the carnival like celebration to usher in his inauguration in Issele-uku, the Local Government Headquarters, where Hon. (Engr.) Emeka Nwaobi, knelt down before the mammoth crowd and pleaded for forgiveness from all those he may have wronged in the course of the elections process.
In a colourful reception ceremony attended by the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya, as well as top politicians and political appointees from Aniocha North extraction, including Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu, the brother of the Minister (of State) for Petroleum, amongst others, Hon. Nwaobi announced that he will provide scholarships for about 120 indigent students in the Local Government and while thanking the people once again for their support, assured that he had concluded arrangements to set up a needs assessment committee with the objective of identifying the critical areas of social and infratrutural intervention in Aniocha North LGA for immediate attention and action.
On his part, the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya said that though Hon. Emeka Nwaobi had only just been sworn-in, he was assuring the people of Aniocha North that the Assembly under his leadership would carry him along and ensure that all the dividends of Democracy accruing to the people through him, would be assessed and delivered accordingly.
In his own comments on the victory of Hon. Emeka Nwaobi, the PDP chairman in Aniocha North local government area, Chief Ifeanyi Osuoza (now Board Chairman of Delta Broadcasting Service, DBS, Asaba), who was beaten to a pulp by persons alleged to be hired thugs on the day of the election said: “Today, I feel fulfilled because, as somebody who supervised the election in Aniocha North, I knew that Emeka Nwaobi, won the April 11 election in this local government, before INEC went ahead and declared the wrong person as winner.
“Despite the fact that the tribunal ruled in favour of Osi Okocha, we, Members of the PDP and indeed Aniocha North indigenes believed strongly in the victory of the mandate of Emeka Nwaobi. We thank God that the appeal court saw the justification in our appeal and awarded it to us.
“No doubt, the victory of Emeka at the appeal court is indeed a plus to the people of Aniocha North because, democracy and politics is about the people-the grassroots which Emeka stands for. Now that Emeka Nwaobi has been declared winner of the April 11 elections in Aniocha North, we are full of expectations and I know he will surely deliver on his mandate”, Osuoza enthused.
Indeed the pomp, celebration and overwhelming feeling of good tidings and happiness, which has become synonymous with Hon. Emeka Nwaobi’ s emergence as the representative of Aniocha North in the Delta State House of Assembly, fully underscores the fact that the people of Aniocha North now believe that they will feel the impact of representation directly, instead of the uncertainty and half-hearted representation which had been their lot in the duration that the election petitions process lasted.
As he settles down to his legislative duties, many Delta political watchers are quick to recall that Aniocha North had provided the Speaker of the Delta Assembly for the better part of the Legislative session in the last four years, and thus it had appeared that LGA had become the sacrificial lamb for the rest of Delta State, since the position meant that the Speaker’s focus was on the whole of Delta State rather his own LGA alone.
Now that Aniocha North has its representative all to themselves, it is only expected that the people will be looking up to Hon. (Engr.) Emeka Emmanuel Nwaobi, to once again make them the prime concern of his representation, attract more dividends of democracy, which had appeared to be in short supply for some time now and ultimate restore and increase the lost glories of Aniocha North, which the people had yearned for and demonstrated on April 11, 2015.
Below are some photos of the epoch-making event.