By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, yesterday, declared Senator Ayogu Eze as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Enugu State.
The appellate court, in a unanimous judgement by a three-man panel of Justices led by Justice Abdul Aboki, voided a high court judgment that earlier recognised Mr. George Ogara as the gubernatorial flag-bearer of the APC for the governorship election billed for Saturday.
It held that the Federal High Court in Abuja acted beyond its powers, when it assumed jurisdiction and determined the dispute in Ogara’s favour, contrary to extant provisions of the law on pre-election matters.
According to the appellate court, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the high court was wrong to have ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to replace Eze’s name with that of Ogara, despite the fact that the substantive suit was filed outside the mandatory 14 days that was prescribed for pre-election disputes.
Justice Aboki held that Ogara’s suit, having been caught by section 285 (9) of the 4th Alteration to the 1999 Constitution, ought to have been dismissed by the lower court for being status barred.
He stressed that records before the appellate court revealed that the suit was filed more than 32 days after the contested primary election that the APC held in Enugu State on October 4, 2018.
The appellate court held that Ogara’s failure to challenge the outcome of the primary poll within 14 days after it was held, rendered his suit to a mere academic exercise.
According to the court, “whatever right the respondent may have in his suit has been extinguished by the law”, saying he therefore had no right to enjoy any benefit from the suit.
Consequently, the court upheld Eze’s appeal, even as it went ahead to set-aside the high court judgment that directed INEC to expunge his name from the list of candidates for the governorship election in Enugu State.
Ogara had dragged the national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, Prof. Moses Momoh and the INEC to court to challenge Senator Eze’s emergence as governorship candidate of the APC in the state.
The plaintiff insisted that he scored the highest votes cast in the primary poll APC conducted for the 270 wards of the 17 local government areas in Enugu State.
In his judgment that was vacated by the Court of Appeal, Justice Ekwo, held that the direct primary election that produced Ogara as the party’s governorship candidate in Enugu was in compliance with APC’s guidelines and the Electoral Act.
He therefore ordered the APC and its national chairman, Oshiomhole to forward Ogara’s name to INEC as the party’s flag bearer in the 2019 governorship election in Enugu State.