The Court of Appeal, Abuja, on Thursday, set aside the judgment of the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal in Asaba which declared Ndudi Elumelu of the PDP as winner of the Feb. 25 election for Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency of Delta . The appellate court, in two judgments, declared Ngozi Okolie of the Labour Party (LP) as winner of the election. The Appeal Court faulted the tribunal for voiding Okolie’s election and proceeded to dismiss the petition filed by Elumelu before the trial tribunal on which the voided judgment was given. The panel agreed with the lawyer to the LP, Mahmud Magaji, SAN, that contrary to the findings of the tribunal, Okolie was duly nominated, sponsored by his party and that he resigned his appointment as a Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Delta Government as provided in Section 66(1)(f) of the Constitution. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Okolie the winner of the Feb. 25 election. Dissatisfied with the outcome of the poll, Elumelu, a former Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, challenged it before the election tribunal. In his petition marked: EPT/DL/HR/06/2023, Elumelu based his challenge of the outcome of the election on his contention that Okolie was not validly sponsored by the LP and that he did not resign his appointment 30 days before the election, as required under the Constitution.
The trial tribunal, headed by Justice A. Z. Mussa, had, in its July 24 judgment, agreed with Elumelu and the PDP that Okolie did not resign before his party’s primary election and that the LP did not hold a valid primary, a decision the Court of Appeal set aside on Thursday. The two judgments by the appellate court were on the two appeals files by the LP and Okolie, marked: CA/AS/EP/HR/DL/05/2023 and CA/AS/EP/HR/DL/06/2023. Delivering the judgment, a three-member panel of the court, led by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu resolved all the issues identified for determination against Elumelu and the PDP. Justice Shuaibu, in the lead judgment in the appeal by the LP, held that the trial tribunal was without the requisite jurisdiction to have heard and determined the petition, which was based entirely on pre-election matter. He added that issues relating nomination, withdrawal and substitution pre-election matters, over which election tribunal has no jurisdiction, noting that “nomination and sponsorship of a candidate is an internal affair of a party.” Justice Shuaibu held that Elumelu and the PDP lacked the locus standi to challenge the nomination process that produced Okolie since they were neither members of the LP nor were they aspirants in the primary held by the LP.
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