Court Reverses Judgment Declaring Okonkwo as PDP Senator

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday reversed its judgment declaring Dr. Obiora Okonkwo of the Peoples Democratic Party as the elected Senator for the Anambra Central Senatorial District.

Justice John Tsoho ruled that he was misled by Okonkwo to give the judgment.

Friday’s ruling cleared the coast for the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct the rerun scheduled for Saturday (today).

The judge had by its judgment delivered on December 13, 2017, ordered INEC to issue fresh Certificate of Return to Okonkwo and directed the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to immediately swear him in to occupy the seat that had been vacant since 2015.

The judgment was delivered in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1092/14, which Okonkwo filed against the PDP; its former National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu; INEC; and Mrs. Uche Ekwunife.

INEC had in a motion filed on December 21 asked the court to set aside the judgment which it said was in contrast with three subsisting decisions of the Court of Appeal.

According to the electoral body, the appellate court had in three separate verdicts in suit number CA/EPT/28/2015, delivered on December 7, 2015, CA/A/160/2016 and CA/A/165/2016, both delivered on November 20, 2017, directed it to within 90 days, conduct a rerun for the senatorial district.

But INEC, through its lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had filed a motion before the court contending that the court lacked the powers to order it to issue Certificate of Return to Okonkwo, when the Court of Appeal, which is higher in hierarchy, had earlier made definite orders that a fresh election should be conducted.

Okonkwo’s lawyer, Mr. Sebastian Hon (SAN), had opposed the motion urging the court to dismiss it with substantial cost.

He insisted that the application was incompetent in law.

Hon argued that the case of his client bordered on the pre-election dispute, in contrast to the election petition dispute which the Court of Appeal ruled on.

Lawyers representing the PDP and Ekwunife agreed with Hon and argued that the Federal High Court had become functus officio in the matter, and going ahead to consider the INEC’s motion would amount to the court sitting as an appellate court over its decision.

Ruling on Friday, Justice Tsoho reversed its earlier judgment and held that Okonkwo misled the court.

He ruled, “The judgment entered by this court is a consent judgment rendered on the procedural ground without trial.

“On that basis, this court is not rendered functus officio .

“The judgment is not one based on merit, therefore, this court has jurisdiction to revisit it. It cannot be described as a final judgment to strip the court of its jurisdiction to revisit it.”

He added, “By the doctrine of judicial precedence, the decision of the Court of Appeal is ordinarily binding on this court in respect of this matter. If the consent judgment of this court is at variance with the decisions of the Court of Appeal, it is bound to be declared a nullity.

“Therefore, the consent judgment of this court is vacated and set aside. Consequently, this suit is adjourned indefinitely pending the outcome of the appeals filed by the PDP at the Supreme Court.”

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