Anambra 2021: Court fixes date to rule on suit challenging Soludo’s victory

Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed November 30, this year, to hear a suit seeking to disqualify winner of the just-concluded Anambra State Governorship elections, Prof. Charles Soludo and his running mate, Onyeka Ibezim of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Prof. Charles Soludo

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has already confirmed Prof Soludo as winner of the November 6, 7 and 9 governorship election conducted in the state. This is even as the agency has presented Prof. Soludo with the certificate of return.

However, a suit brought before the Federal High Court in Abuja by two plaintiffs, Adindu Valentine, and Egwudike Chukwuebuka, alleged that Soludo indicated that he was contesting for Aguata Constituency 2 seat in his nomination for presented to INEC, whereas he was actually contesting for the position of a Governor.

Presiding Judge of the Abuja High Court, Justice Taiwo Taiwo fixed the date after lawyers to parties made their final submissions.

The plaintiffs  are challenging Soludo’s victory based on false information in the affidavit (Form EC9) that he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission and should be deemed unqualified to stand for election.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/711/2021, the plaintiffs claimed that Soludo indicated in the affidavit that he was contesting the Aguata 2 Constituency seat when, in fact, he was contesting the Anambra governorship seat.

Defendants in the suit are the Independent National Electoral Commission, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Soludo and Ibezim.

In their final submission, plaintiffs’ lawyers, A. O. Ijeri and Kelvin Okoko, argued that having indicated the wrong seat he was contesting, Soludo supplied INEC with false information, violated extant legal provisions and ought to be disqualified.

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“The constitution has made a state a constituency in relation to the governorship election, but in this case, the third defendant (Soludo) named Aguata 2 as the constituency he is contesting,” Ijeri said.

As against the contention by lawyers to the second to fourth defendants, Ijeri argued that his clients have established that there was a cause of action and that the court has jurisdiction to determine the case.

“The cause of action in a pre-election matter, by the provision of Section 285(9) of the Constitution, is determined by the date of the occurrence of the event, a decision or action complained about in the suit by the plaintiff.

“There is evidence that INEC received the submitted Form EC9 on July 6n 2021,” Ijeri said.

He then prayed the court to find merit in the case and grant the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs.

Counsel to APGA and Soludo, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), argued that the suit was without merit and that the court lacked jurisdiction.

Ikpeazu contended that error in an affidavit cannot be a basis to disqualify a candidate from election, noting that the false information contemplated in Section 31 of the Electoral Act was criminal in nature.

Lawyer to Ibezim, C. Mbaeri, argued in similar vein and prayed the court to uphold his objection and dismiss the suit.

In his submission, counsel to INEC, Bashir Abubakar, said his client did not file any process in the case and has elected to leave the decision at the discretion of the court.

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It is, however, not yet known if candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the same election, Andy Uba, is behind the suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja, as he has vowed in recent comments to pursue his case at the court over the election.

Uba in a statement, Wednesday, signed by his Director of Media and Publicity of the Campaign organisation, Hon. Afam Victor Ogene, had said that no tactics by the leaders of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state would make him back out of his decision to challenge outcome of the poll in court.

“The elections have come and gone and we are in the process of interrogating the sanctity of its outcome. But instead of gearing up for the expected judicial battle ahead, APGA as a party and its leaders are busy trolling my person, in the mistaken belief that their underhand tactics would make me back out of my chosen course of action.

“I have only decided to take a civilised course of action, which is a recourse to the judiciary in the face of daunting illegalities that trailed the conduct of the elections.

“How this is so discomfiting to some, leading to the sponsorship of several false stories about my person, beats the imagination of all reasonable members of society.”

Meanwhile, people of Aguata community in Anambra have waded into the impasse surrounding the outcome of the state’s governorship election, as they have appealed to Andy Uba to allow the APGA candidate to assume office as governor having won the poll.

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Uba is also of Aguata, along with Soludo.

Speaking during a summit in Nkpo, Idemili North local Government Area, Anambra State, the Controller General of the union, Peter Okala said that the event was organised to press it on Andy Uba who is also their son to allow Soludo execute his mandate.

“This Nkpor summit was designed by the cacaus of this union and kindreds of Sen. Andy Uba, to take stock of the just-concluded gubernatorial election in the state in which our own son and brother emerged the winner and we thank God for his victory.

“We thank Nigerians, INEC, security operatives and IPOB for ensuring that a man of the people emerged. IPOB suspended its sit-at-home order and it gave room for the electorate to freely vote for the candidates of their choice.

“We therefore warn that failure to heed to our advice that Soludo should be allowed to execute his mandate.

“Senator Andy Uba who we learned has gone or is about to go to the Election Petition Tribunal to challenge his victory, we will have no other option than to use all legal means to stop him.

“Anambra people are wiser now and any attempt to truncate the victory will be resisted. We therefore advise Uba to sheath his sword and allow the wish and aspiration of the people in the interest of peace.

“We thank those candidates who not minding that they were defeated, rushed and commended Soludo for his landslide victory. They showed spirit of sportsmanship.”

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