The Abakaliki Division of the Federal High Court has nullified its earlier judgement which foreclosed the chances of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from challenging the nomination of Rt. Hon Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru by the All Progressives Congress (APC) as its 2023 Governorship candidate in Ebonyi, on the ground of it being statute-barred.
The People’s Democratic Party had in a suit no. FHC/AI/CS/7/2023 challenged the validity of the nomination of Rt Hon Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru by the APC on the ground that he was still a member of the People’s Democratic Party and couldn’t had been nominated by the APC as its 2023 governorship candidate in Ebonyi State.
The Plaintiff upon service of the process on the defendants, the 1st and 2nd defendants (Rt. Hon. Nwifuru and the APC) filed their processes which include memorandum of appearance, counter claim, counter affidavit and notice of preliminary objection; but allegedly served the plaintiff all other processes except the notice of preliminary objection.
On 4th day of February,2023, the Court presided by Justice Fatun Riman sat and the Plaintiff’s Counsel was reportedly not in Court but the Court proceeded to hear the notice of preliminary objection and delivered its ruling by granting the relief sought by the defendants, thereby striking out the Plaintiffs’ suit.
Dissatisfied by the Court’s decision, the Plaintiff through its Counsel, Chief Mudi Erhenede in a motion on notice dated 15th day of May 2023, asked the Court to set aside its judgment delivered FHC/AI/CS/7/2023 on 14th February 2023.
Barrister Erhenede argued that hearing the notice of preliminary objection by the Court without being served has denied the Plaintiff fair hearing, hence, the motion before the Court to set aside the said ruling.
“The purported notice of preliminary objection upon which the Honourable Court based its ruling of 14th of February 2023 was not served on the plaintiff before the said hearing/decision and has still not been served on the plaintiff till the time of this application,” he argued.
Delivering his judgement, on Thursday, Honourable Justice Hyeladzira Ajiya Nganjiwa, consequently set aside the ruling saying it was done without jurisdiction, and declared it, null and void.
“An order is made setting aside the ruling/decision of this Court delivered in suit no. FHC/AI/CS/7/2023 on the 14th day of February 2023.
“That the ruling/decision delivered on 14th February, 2023 was done without jurisdiction.
“That the notice of preliminary objection heard and determined and relied upon to strike out suit no. FHC/AI/CS/7/2023 was not served on the plaintiff.
“That the order made was without jurisdiction, null and void.
“That the hearing and determination of the notice of preliminary objection without hearing from the plaintiff is unconstitutional and a denial of fair hearing.
“That the suit No. FHC/AI/CS/7/2023 struck out on the 14th day of February 2023 be relisted back on the Court’s case lost forthwith for same to he heard and determined on its merit,” Justice Nganjiwa ordered.
Mr Nwifuru won the governorship election in Ebonyi State while the PDP candidate, Dr Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii came second.