The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said, it will conduct the Anambra Central senatorial district rerun election on January 13, 2018.
INEC National Commissioner, Solomon Soyebi, disclosed this in Lagos, yesterday.
Earlier, in Anambra, Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji gave hints that a final decision on the poll was being taken at a meeting in the INEC headquarters Abuja.
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, on Monday, ordered INEC to conduct a re-run election for the Senatorial District within 90 days. A three-member panel of the court headed by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe Wilson, gave the order while delivering judgment in a appeal filed by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and its candidate, Chief Victor Umeh, challenging the February 29 verdict of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which ordered the inclusion of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Senator Uche Ekwenife in the re-run poll.
In making the order in its judgment, the Abuja Court of Appeal had said “where a court nullifies an election and orders a fresh election, a political party, which participated in the annulled election, at whose instance the election was nullified, cannot field a new candidate to contest in the fresh election.” But, Ekwunife’s lawyer wrote INEC after the Court of Appeal order, and warned the electoral body not to conduct the rerun because there other cases pending in various courts on the same matter.However, Dr. Orji told newsmen, yesterday, that there is nothing holding the Commission from conducting the poll. “We must conduct the election; no more delay.”
Meanwhile, the PDP has approached the Supreme Court, in its bid to set aside the judgment of the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal which ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 90 days to conduct a re-run election into the disputed Anambra Central senatorial seat.
In the appeal, which is premised on three grounds, the opposition party contended that the lower court erred in law by holding that INEC was right to exclude it and any of its candidate from participating in the fresh election ordered by the Enugu division of the Court of Appeal which sat as election tribunal in the appeal between Chief Victor Umeh and the PDP.
The party through its counsel, David Iorhemba, contended that what the Court of Appeal, in Enugu, voided was only Uche Ekwunife’s nomination for the election and not the final outcome of the election in 2015. The Court of Appeal, in a judgment delivered by Justice Wilson Akomolafe, dismissed the appeal brought by the PDP against the order excluding it from participating in the fresh election and ordered INEC to conduct elections within 90 days.
But it is the contention of the PDP that there cannot be a fresh election over the Anambra Senatorial seat because its victory in the 2015 election has not been voided by any court.
The party further contended in ground two that the Court of Appeal erred in law in assuming jurisdiction to interpret it’s own judgment by sitting on appeal in its own judgment which is final decision in CA/E/EPT/28/2015 between Victor Umeh Vs PDP did not nullify the election to Anambra Central Senatorial district seat it won but merely ordered fresh election after holding that the decision of the tribunal was perverse.
That the Court of Appeal misdirected itself in law when it held that the case of Labour Party vs INEC was applicable in the appeal at the lower court when the facts and circumstances of the case are not on all fours with the facts of the Appeal at the court below.
The party is therefore asking the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, excluding it from fielding any of its candidate to participate in the fresh election ordered by the election petition appeal tribunal in CA/E/EPT/28/2015 and by the Court below for the seat of Anambra Central Senatorial district within 90 days from November 11, 2017.
An order directing INEC to accept and put on the ballot paper, any candidate sponsored by the party to contest the fresh senatorial election for Anambra Central district.
PDP stated that “as a corporate entity and a political party operating in Nigeria, (it) is a citizen of Nigeria and by the provisions of Section 221 of the constitution of Nigeria has the right to canvass for votes for any candidate and sponsor any candidate at any election and by excluding it and any of its candidates from participating in the fresh election ordered for Anambra central Senatorial District, the lower court’s order excluding the appellant (PDP) and any of its candidates from participating in the fresh election ordered by the Court of Appeal Enugu Division in consonance with the administrative action the Peoples Democratic Party is discriminatory and breaches the fundamental right of freedom from discrimination guaranteed it and any if its candidates by section 42 of the constitution”.
It also argues that the exclusion, despite being discriminatory, causes its members to suffer disabilities and restrictions to which other citizens of Nigerian and political parties are not subjected to.
The party said it was unhappy with the judgment because by allowing its exclusion from the fresh election, the court embarked on an issue that was not before it as the question of who actually won the 2015 election was never in doubt.
Meanwhile, the issue of who was actual candidate of the PDP for the Anambra Central seat is still in contention before the Appeal Court in Abuja.
Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, who was returned at the primary election of the PDP held on December 7, 2014, is in the Court of Appeal seeking an order declaring that by virtue of final results from the December 2014 primary election of the PDP, he ought to be in the Senate on behalf of the district.
Documents filed before the Court of Appeal show that indeed, Dr. Okonkwo won the 2014 primary election having polled 204 delegate votes ahead of other contestants which included Sen. Annie Okonkwo, Hon. Uche Ekwunife, Sylvester Okonkwo and Kodilichukwu Okonkwo.
The appeal, which is still undefended by the INEC and PDP, also seeks to compel a Federal High Court in Abuja to deliver judgment in Okonkwo suit, which is a pre-election matter.
A lawyer in the matter told journalists in Abuja, that being a pre-election matter, the Appeal ought to be determined first before delving into a post-election matter.
According to the lawyer, “even the court-ordered fresh election would be mere academic exercise if the pre-election matter was not determined because it will amount to waste of resources if the fresh election goes ahead with the exclusion of and the Court later determine that indeed, Okonkwo won the PDP primary election of 2014 and if we go by previous Supreme court decisions, victory in a general election belongs to the political party”.
Anambra Central has been without a senator since 2015 when the Court of Appeal in Enugu sacked Ekwunife from the senate on the grounds that she was not the right and proper candidate to have contested in the election and she was not properly returned at the primary election of the PDP.
Ekwunife’s challenge of the judgment at the Supreme Court also hit a brick wall leading to her forced exit from the Senate.
Meanwhile, INEC yesterday gave the hint that the controversial Anambra Central Senatorial rerun would be conducted on yet to be fixed date next month.
Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji who gave this hint to newsmen in his office said that final decision on it was being taken at a meeting in the INEC headquarters Abuja.
He said, “INEC officials are meeting to take final decision on the issue, but I assure you that we will conduct that election any time in December. It can’t exceed December.”
It could be recalled that the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, on Monday, ordered INEC, to conduct a re-run election for the Senatorial District within 90 days.
A three-member panel of the Court headed by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe Wilson, gave the order while delivering judgment in a appeal filed by the All Progressives Grand Alliance, and its candidate, Chief Victor Umeh challenging the February 29 verdict of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which ordered the inclusion of Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Senator Uche Ekwenife in the re-run poll.
In making the order in its judgment, the Abuja Court of Appeal had said, “Where a court nullifies an election and orders a fresh election, a political party which participated in the annulled election at whose instance the election was nullified cannot field a new candidate to contest in the fresh election.”
But Ekwunife’s lawyer had written INEC after the Court of Appeal order, warning the electoral body not to conduct the rerun because according to him there other cases pending in various courts on the same matter.
However, the REC, Dr. Orji told newsmen that there was nothing holding the Commission from conducting the poll, adding, “We must conduct the election in December; no more delay.”