By Ben Alumun
IN an apparent move to resolve the smoldering political crisis in Anambra State, which followed the outcome of the March 28, 2015 general election, the Supreme Court on February 24, 2016 declined to review its judgment delivered on January 29 in favour of the Ejike Oguebego led Executive Committee of the People Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State and declared that the judgment earlier delivered was clear and unambiguous as it relates to the leadership of PDP in the state only and not on any other issue that was not brought before the court for adjudication by the affected parties.
In the ruling delivered by Justice John Iyang Okoro, following an application filed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) which sought the review, clarifications and consequences of the judgment on the status of the National Assembly members from Anambra State, the apex court held that the judgment by its ordinary meaning did not need to be subjected to any clarifications.
The unanimous ruling of the 5-member panel of Justices of the Court was emphatic that the dispute on whether the certificates of return should be withdrawn from the serving lawmakers and given to the list of candidates of the Oguebego faction was not an issue before the court and that the court never made any pronouncement to that effect. It will be recalled that INEC had through its counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, filed an application at the Supreme Court dated February 8, asking the apex court to give interpretation, implication and consequences of the judgment delivered on January 29 as it relates to the status of the National Assembly members from Anambra State.
But the court in the ruling, however, said that the controversy and confusion on the status of the lawmakers was unnecessary because the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal had determined their status in their various judgments.
Justice Okoro said that since the Court of Appeal was the final arbiter and had made pronouncement, there was no need to invite Supreme Court to make any clarification on a concluded matter that was not ambiguous. Be sides, Okoro said that there was no dispute in the claim of the PDP National Executive Committee that it submitted the list of nominated candidates for National Assembly election to the INEC, having conducted the primary election in line with the PDP constitution.
The Supreme Court also stated that the same claim was alluded to by INEC that it accepted the list of nominated candidates for National Assembly election from PDP National Secretariat, being the body vested with power to conduct primary election for the nomination. Justice Okoro, therefore, advised lawyers, especially the senior ones, to always give their clients genuine advice and not turn themselves to slaves of desperate politicians.
Reacting to the ruling, counsel to INEC, Chief Awomolo said that the decision of the court has resolved the blackmail and confusion employed by parties in the case to suit their own individual purposes at the expense of the merit of the case. Despite the clarification, which is a tacit, yet unambiguous confirmation of the elections of Senators Andy Uba and Stella Oduah to the Senate as well as those of the eight others in the House of Representatives, the Chris Ubah faction has become restive, demanding that the INEC issue them with certificates of return to facilitate their going to the National Assembly. The faction is demanding that the certificates of return sustaining Andy Uba, Stella Oduah and the eight others be voided by INEC to enable them make replacements at the National Assembly on the ground that they were the authentic candidates of the PDP who won the National Assembly elections in the affected senatorial districts and federal constituencies in Anambra State.
In a fresh strongly worded letter to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, the Chris Ubah faction maintained that there was no court order upon which the membership of the Andy Uba, Stella Oduah and others in the National Assembly can be sustained. The letter, titled: “Striking out of INEC application to Supreme Court for judgement clarification and request to issue certificates of return to our clients”, dated February 24, 2016, was written by their lawyer, Mr. Anthony Ozioko of the Law Rescue firm in Abuja. According to the petition, “Our previous correspondence dated February 10, 2016 wherein we complained of the impropriety of the application for clarification of judgement at the Supreme Court refers: “You may recall that we urged you sir, to use your good office to withdraw the motion that was pending at the Supreme Court in view of the fact that there is no ambiguity in the judgment that required clarification. “We are pleased to inform you that on 24th of February, 2016, the INEC motion for clarification came up at the Supreme Court for hearing and the Supreme Court upheld our client’s preliminary objection that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain such a motion.
“The motion was struck out and the court maintained that there was no ambiguity in its judgement of January 29, 2016 “In view of the foregoing, the coast is now clear for our clients to be issued with certificates of return to go to the Senate as there is nothing hindering your commission from complying with orders of court and issuing our clients with their certificates of return.“Therefore, we request your good office to toe the honourable path and follow the due process of law, and issue our clients with their certificates of return without any further delay.
“We shall forward to you in due course a copy of the Supreme Court order striking out the INEC motion”. The letter condemned the media for allegedly misinterpreting the Supreme Court decision of February 24, 2016 to the effect that the elections of Andy Uba, Stella Oduah and eight others were affirmed by the Supreme Court, describing the media action as a propaganda. The letter further read in part: “Unfortunately, the media is awash with a propaganda that the Supreme Court ruled that its judgement did not sack Senator Andy Uba and others”. “This propaganda is cheap and can only mislead half educated or uninformed minds. “The Supreme Court did not entertain the INEC motion, it struck it out for lack of jurisdiction to interpret or clarify a judgement it already delivered. “Can a court that did not hear a matter for lack of jurisdiction make any order on it?” the letter queried.
It further reads: “This misleading propaganda is calculated to hoodwink INEC into remaining in error in respect of the Supreme Court judgement and the subsisting order of the Federal High Court.
•Alumun writes from Abuja