There is palpable tension and uncertainty in the political camps of Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and Prince Ned Nwoko, as the Appeal Court resumed sitting on May 22, entertained the submissions of opposing counsels, as they sought to establish the claims of authenticity to the Delta North Senatorial seat, by their respective clients, and reserved judgment to pronounce who the authentic PDP candidate to represent Delta North Senatorial zone will be, when the Nigerian Senate reconvenes for the 9th Session in June 2019.
Recall that a three-man panel of Justices of the appellate court headed by Justice Adamu Jauro, had, in response to the plea for accelerated hearing by the Peter Nwaoboshi legal team, since the matter would constitutionally expire on June 3, fixed May 22 for definite hearing of the appeal that was lodged by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, challenging the ruling of Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja, that nullified his February 23, victory as Senator-elect of Delta North senatorial zone, on the premise that he was not validly nominated by the PDP.
The Appeal court had further given the respondent, Prince Ned Nwoko, who was handed the senatorial seat by the Federal high court, six days to respond to two separate appeals that were lodged against him by both Nwaoboshi and the PDP.
Justice Jauro had equally directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to within the same number of days, state its own position on the disputed primary election.
Counsels of the respective parties thus converged, as directed by the Appeal Court on May 22, to press their cases in the appeal filed by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi over the nullification of his position as Senator- elect.
Counsel to Nwaoboshi, Tony Idigbe ( SAN ) in opening his submission, argued before the panel of three judges, that Prince Ned Nwoko was not the authentic winner of the Delta North senatorial election held on the 2nd of October, 2018, even as he urged the court to jettison the April 3, 2019 Federal court judgement against Nwaoboshi, as the suit which the lower court relied on was filed out of time and therefore statute – barred.
Continuing, Idigbe SAN, established before the Appellate Court that the soul of the Appeal before the Court centered on PRE-ELECTION matter in which the 1st respondent filed out of the statutory 14 days as stipulated by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Furthermore, Chief Idigbe, SAN, brought to the notice of the court that the 1st respondent was never declared the winner of the primary election which cannot be equated as him emerging winner of the primary election but had his name replaced with that of the appellant.
He also urged the court to look at the result sheet of the primary election that was tendered by both the appellant Nwsoboshi and the respondent Nwoko at the lower court and find the date the primary took place, maintaining that the suit being a pre -election matter was first filed at the Federal Capital Territory High Court after the 14 days allowed by law had elapsed.
On the second issue, Idigbe (SAN) urged the court to hold that respondent (Nwoko) had the burden to show that the processes he filed at the lower court were served on the appellant. He said that till date the respondent never served them with the court processes, that the appellant only became aware of the suit from the media. Besides, he added that Nwoko did not appeal the lower court refusal to declare him winner of the primary election.
In his counter submission, counsel to Ned Nwoko Ahmed Raji ( SAN) asked the court to dismiss the appeal as it was defective, null and frivolous.
Quoting diverse legal authorities and landmark records, Nwoko s counsel said Nwaoboshi’s lawyer relied on issues that are not known to law and never emanated from the high court judgement.
He noted that the extraneous grounds stated in the submission by counsel to Nwaoboshi was like telling a lie against the lower court, averring further that the issues put forward by Nwaoboshi’s counsel were taken before an FCT high court and not Federal high court.
The learned counsel, Raji said Nwoko’s case was not statute – barred, because time limit concerning the matter was legally predicated on 3 grounds – PDP Primary election, decision of the party and INEC action of name publication, even as he explained before the appeal court that the Crux of Nwoko’s case was rooted in the wrongful action of INEC to have published Nwaoboshi”s name based on the incongruous decision of the PDP as consequence of a primary election freely won by Ned Nwoko.
He said the ACTION of wrong publication of Nwaoboshi name by INEC, instead of presentation of Nwoko ‘s name is the issue for determination and cannot be statute barred as the relief Nwoko filed was far ahead of constitutionally required time limit.h
Amed Raji (SAN) urged the court to dismiss the appeal on the ground that the suit was filed within time allowed by law. He explained that the action which ignited the suit was the publication made by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showing the list of party candidates.
In conclusion Nwoko’s lawyer expressly asked the court to dismiss Nwaoboshi’s appeal for lack of merit and uphold the judgement of the federal high in favour of Nwoko.
Counsel to the PDP, and also PDP’s Legal Adviser, Emmanuel Enoidem whose brief of argument was struck out having been withdrawn by him earlier, aligned with the submissions made by Idigbe, SAN, Counsel to Nwsoboshi and queried the grounds on which the lower court arrived at the directive mandating the Party to publish the name of Ned Nwoko as the candidate of the party, two months after the election was concluded.
The PDP legal adviser submitted before the panel of three judges, that his soul, mind, body are with the Appellant, Nwaoboshi, because the Appellant is the authentic winner of the October 2, 2018 Delta North PDP primary election.
Anthony Onyeri, who represented INEC did not file any brief, but pledged to abide by the decision of the court.
At the end of the submissions from the parties, the panel of judges reserved judgement for a later date which will be communicated to both parties, but assured all parties that the judgment will be given before June 3, which is the expiration date of the mandatory 60 days within which the case must be constitutionally concluded.
Lead counsel to the Appellant Chief Idigbe, SAN, however prayed the Court of Appeal to expedite judgement in the interest of justice, while Razak Raji (SAN), for the respondent, was of the view that such prayer will put the judges under undue ‘pressure’
The appeal Court hall which could only accommodate 70 persons, was filled to capacity. A team of Prince Ned Nwoko’s men led by his campaign D.G. Hon. Leo Esegbue were on hand to witness the proceedings. Also in court were the director, contact & mobilization Dr. Mike Nwoko , director media and strategic communication, comrade Norbert chiazor, Dr Chris Okobah, Personal assistants to Nwoko, Mohammed Bolgo, Godwin Osemene and Frank Nwandu among others.
Senator Nwaoboshi’s men were also sighted in full force including the D.G Barr. Frank Nwugo, Chairman Oshimili North LGA, Hon. Louis Ndukwe and Senior member of SPON Media team Hon. Leo Nkeaka, amongst others in their high powered delegation.
As tension and uncertainty gradually grows to a frenzied crescendo in bated anticipation of the Appeal Court judgment, the camps of Prince Ned Nwoko and Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi are however quite upbeat and fully confident that their candidate will eventually emerge triumphant in the highly contentious political tussle that had often degenerated into bitter, acrimonious brickbats and robust, no-love-lost verbal confrontations, especially on social media platforms, between the supporters of the two distinguished Anioma sons and political gladiators.