…As protesters storms INEC headquarters
From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Thursday, said it was studying the judgment ordering it to issue Certificate of Return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Obiora Okonkwo.
Justice John Tsoho of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, had in a judgment delivered on a pre-election matter on December 13, declared Okonkwo as the rightfully elected candidate of the PDP in the primary election held in 2014.
Consequently, the court ordered INEC to immediately issue Okonkwo with the Certificate of Return being the rightful candidate for the disputed Anambra Central Senatorial Election won by the PDP in 2015.
An official of the Commission, Richard Awolola, an Acting Director in charge of Security, disclosed this, on Thursday, while responding to a crowd of protesters who stormed the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
While assuring the protesters of INEC’s readiness to obey the laws of the land, Awolola said the commission was following the normal process and would get back to them once they are done.
He,. However, commended the group for the orderly and peaceful manner they have been conducting the protest.
The protesters with various inscription, such as INEC obey court order, Release Certificate of Return to Obiara etc said they were at the INEC headquarters to prevail on the commission to release certificate of return to Obiora so that he can be sworn in by the National Assembly to represent the people of Anambra Central Senatorial District which according to them has been suffering since the sacking of Senator Uche Ekwunife who was declared winner of the 2015 National Assembly election.
The court of Appeal in Enugu had in 2015 voided Ekwunife election on the grounds that she was not a product of a valid election and thereby declared a seat at the National Assembly vacant.
A spokesman of the protesters, Azubuike said, “We are here to appeal to INEC to issue certificate of return to Obiora whom the court declared as the right person to represent Anambra Central at the National Assembly.
” He needs the certificate to go to the National Assembly to be sworn in as senator representing Anambra Central. We have been suffering because of lack of representation at the Senate.
“We believe INEC is a law abiding institution and they will do the right thing”, he said.
A Federal High Court in Abuja had ordered that Dr. Obiora Okonkwo be swron in as Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Justice John Tsoho who delivered the judgment in the pre-election suit filed by Obiora ordered the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki to forthwith inaugurate Okonkwo to take over the Anambra Central Senatorial District seat in the Senate.
The suit was filed against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and three others, the trial Judge, Justice Tsoho agreed with the submissions of counsel to Obiora, Sabastine Hon (SAN) that pre-election matters like this from an array of authorities decided by the Supreme Court take priority over decisions by election tribunals and other courts in election disputes based on same political seat contested for.
“They outlast the period of election and post election until they are determined.
The court further relied on the authorities in Abdulkarim Vs INCAR (Nig. Ltd) (1992) 7SCNJ 366 at 379: Amaechi Vs INEC (2008) 5NWLR: Oker Jev Vs Iortyom (2015) and Inoma Vs Idakwo (2003) to support his judgment.
Hon had submitted that consequential orders need not to be asked for before they are granted.
He said a candidate who has won the party primaries but rejected by his party can be ordered by way of a consequential order to assume that seat.
In his judgment, the court held that Obiora was validly nominated by the PDP in its primary election of December 7, 2014 for the Senatorial District.
Justice Tsoho ordered that the Certificates of Return earlier issued to another aspirant, Mrs Uche Ekwenife be withdrawn and that a fresh certificate of return one be issued to Okonkwo by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Okonkwo had, in 2014 instituted a court action against PDP, its then National Chairman, Adamu Muazu, INEC and Mrs Uche Ekwenife challenging the nomination of Ekwenife as PDP”s candidate of the party for the 2015 national assembly election.
However, in the course of hearing of the suit, all the four defendants withdrew their processes against the case and agreed to submit themselves to the judgment of the Federal High Court .
In his submission, counsel to the PDP, I. E. Umeji said the party did not file any counter affidavit to the motion on notice.
“We are not opposing the application. With my Lords permission, may we re-adopts the processes filed before the court. We re-adopt the notice of withdrawal filed on March 2, 2017 by the 1st and 2nd respondents. The notice of withdrawal was dated March 1, 2017, but was filed on March 2, 2017.
“My lord, we urged the court to deemed these two processes as representing the position of the 1st and 2nd respondents in this case. By that affidavit of facts, the 1st and 2nd respondents have submitted to the judgment in this case.”
Counsel to the 3rd respondent (INEC). Nnamdi Nweze, said his client did not file anything in this matter because it believes that this case is an intra- party matter.
“As an impartial umpire, it does not want to delve into the arena. And as a responsible organisation, which is a creation of the law, it is ready to abide by the decision of the court. And there is no objection to the submissions made by counsel to the plaintiff.”
On his part, counsel to the 4th respondent, E. O. Okoye adopted it’s affidavit of facts filed on November 28, 2017 as representing the position of his client in the case, with particular reference to paragraph four of the document and asked the court to grant same.