By THEO RAYS
THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared that the Court of Appeal-ordered Anambra Central Senatorial district re-run election will hold this Saturday, January 13 as earlier scheduled .
The hope for the conduct of the rerun election, which has suffered many litigations, heightened following a statement credited to the Anambra State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr Nwachukwu Orji indicating that election would hold as scheduled on Saturday.
Dr Orji was quoted as saying that the legal debacle hindering the election from holding had been resolved, noting that the legal department of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC had studied the judgments and asked INEC to go ahead with the election as ordered by the Court of Appeal as against the Justice John Tsoho Federal High Court judgment, declaring Dr. Obiora Okonkwo of the PDP as the Senator-elect for the /senatorial District.
A Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by Justice John Tsoho had on 13 December last year, declared Dr. Okonkwo the rightful candidate for the seat, and asked the Senate to swear him in immediately.
Many had awaited the decision of the Independent Electoral Commission, which during the hearing of Dr. Obiora’s uncontested suit had told the court that it would abide by its order.
With Orji’s announcement, INEC is back to conducting a re-run on he 13 January 2018 date it had set before Dr. Obiora got his judgment.
Orji said the commission has already commenced training of its ad hoc personnel.
“Our legal department has asked us to go ahead and obey the Court of Appeal order against the Federal High Court judgment. So, we are going ahead to conduct the election on January 13. We are going on with the election as scheduled,” he said.
Anambra Central Senatorial District consists of the following seven local government areas – Awka North, Awka South, Njikoka, Dunukofia, Anaocha, Idemili North, and Idemili South.
Victory in the election is by simple majority of the votes cast.
There had been a lull in the campaigns for the seat with the undecided matter of what INEC would do.
The Anambra Central Senatorial District has been without a Senator since 2015 when the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, sacked the occupant of the position, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife following a petition filed by Victor Umeh. The court asked INEC to conduct a re-run in the district within 90 days, while disqualifying Ekwunife and her political party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), from participating in the re-run.
PDP challenged its exclusion in the re-run at the Federal High Court, Abuja that granted judgment in its favour. On the appeal against the High Court judgment Umeh contended that the PDP would not field a candidate in the re-run since it was on its instance that the election was nullified on 7 December 2015. On Monday, 20 November 2017, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja delivered a judgment in favour of Umeh in which it ordered INEC to conduct the re-run election within 90 days of the judgment. The judgment excluded PDP from contesting the election.
Following this, INEC fixed the re-run for 13 January 2018. But on 13 December, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja declared Dr. Obiora Okonkwo of the PDP as Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District in a judgment Justice Tsoho delivered.
Tsoho, among other reliefs, asked INEC to issue certificate of return to Okonkwo and ordered the Senate President to swear in the PDP candidate immediately as the Senator for Anambra Central Senatorial District
The Oracle Today gathered that some candidates did not show interest in the seat because they still think that the Federal High Court judgment, which was on a pre-election matter could resolve the matter in favour of Dr. Obiora at the end of the day.
As if to confirm that the last had not heard about the litigations on the election, a law firm, S.T. HON (SAN) & CO has written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to suspend the Anambra Central Senatorial re-run election slated for Saturday, January 13 2018.
In a letter to INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu titled ‘Request to stay action or suspend conduct of the re-run election in the Anambra Central Senatorial District, Slated for Saturday, 13th January, 2018’, and signed by Sebastine T. Hon, SAN and Festus Keyamo, SAN, the firm averred that conduct of the re-run election for the Anambra Central had been overtaken by an extant court judgment of December 13, 2017, which ordered INEC to issue Dr. Obiora Okonkwo of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, with a Certificate of Return, COR as the Senator-elect representing the Anambra Central Senatorial District.
“For the avoidance of doubt, certified copies of the said consent judgment and the judgment order have already been served on your office by bailiffs of the Federal High Court. Our office also wrote several letters to you, not only informing you of that judgment but also forwarding certified copies of same to you.
“Till date, you have refused to, failed and or neglected to comply with the judgment of this court of competent jurisdiction,” the firm wrote in the letter to INEC.
“Also, bailiffs of the Federal High Court went to your office today, 8th January, 2018 to serve you with Form 48, but you refused service and instead directed them to serve the legal department of INEC, when you know or should know that personal service, unless substituted service is ordered is mandatory when Form 48 is issued.”
The firm accused INEC of deliberately refusing to acknowledge service, noting that the Chairman’s body language and that of the Commission, “suggest that your Commission is preparing to go ahead with the disputed rerun election, in spite of the consent judgment of Coram Johns Tsoho J of the Federal High court, Abuja.”
It, however, warned Prof. Yakubu that his Commission knows well that “it cannot lawfully or validly go on with the planned rerun, hence it has briefed a Senior Lawyer, Asiwaju Solomon Awomolo, SAN, to file a Motion on Notice at the Federal High Court, seeking to vary the consent judgment of Tsoho, J. We have already been served with this Motion and we have responded therto accordingly.”
“However, in paragraph 9 of the affidavit in support, Alhassan A. Umar of INEC’s Legal Department has acknowledged the existence of prior Court of Appeal decisions and the decision of Tsoho J., and has stated that the ‘Commission is bound by the subsisting orders’,” the firm added.
The firm declared that in the light of the documents before the courts, voluntarily filed by INEC admitting that unless and until the judgment of Tsoho, J., is set aside, the re-run cannot go ahead, it would be preposterous for Prof. Yakubu and INEC to go ahead and conduct the Anambra Central re-run on January 13.