Appeal Court Excludes Ekwunife From Anambra Central Senatorial Rerun | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Appeal Court Excludes Ekwunife From Anambra Central Senatorial Rerun

Posted: Dec 25, 2015 at 1:55 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)
By Emmanuel Nzomiwu, Enugu
Former Senator representing Anambra Central senatorial district, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) whose election was nullified by the Court of Appeal in Enugu has been precluded from contesting in the rerun election ordered by the same Court.
 
Ekwunife was until the nullification of her election, the Chairman, Senate Committee of Petroleum
 
The Appeal Court had in its unanimous lead judgment on December 7, held that Ekwunife’s election did not comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act and therefore upturned the judgment of the lower National Assembly Election Tribunal in Awka, which earlier on October 9, upheld her election

Delivering the abridged judgment on the appeal brought by Chief Victor Umeh of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Chairman of the 3-man appeal panel, Justice A.D. Yahaya said: “In sum, this appeal succeeds and it is allowed. The perverse decision of the Tribunal delivered on the 9th of October 2015 is hereby set aside. We order the 1st Respondent herein, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election into the Anambra Central senatorial district, within 90 days from today.”
 
The Appeal Court further awarded a cost of N50, 000 to the appellant against the respondents and promised to release the full judgment later.
 
In the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the full judgment dated December 21, 2015 and obtained by this newspaper on Tuesday, the Appeal Court after reviewing the judgment of the Tribunal and the evidence and materials brought before the Tribunal by the appellant, held that Ekwunife, the 11th respondent was not the product of a valid primary and was therefore not duly and legitimately nominated.
 
Among all the grounds of the appeal for consideration, the Court of Appeal had taken only one issue to determine the appeal and that was the issue of non qualification of the PDP candidate for contesting the election as a result of her not being nominated from a legitimate and valid primary to produce her as a candidate.
 
The Court of Appeal in its judgment, decided to take that issue first because if she was not validly nominated as a candidate for the election, there was no need going into the other issues.
 
The full judgment reads in part: “So, whether it was the “National body of PDP in Anambra State”, the 5-man National Assembly Electoral Committee, or care-taker committee that conducted the primary which produced the 11th respondent as the nominated candidate of PDP to contest the election, it is immaterial; since by paragraph 25 (1) of exhibit R1, it is the special congress that should conduct the primary for the purpose of nominating a candidate to contest election into the National Assembly. The 11th respondent was therefore not the product of a valid primary and was therefore not duly and legitimately nominated. That has disqualified her from contesting the election into the Anambra Central senatorial district.”
 
Making reference to cases decided by the Supreme Court on the same issue, the Appeal Court held that Nomination is part and parcel of qualification to stand for an election and since an election can be challenged on grounds of non-qualification, it follows that the appropriate forum to challenge it after the election is held, is the election Tribunal, especially where the challenger is from a different political party and may not be aware of the defect in qualification and has sufficient interest, until the person being challenged contests and is declared the winner thereof.
 
The Court maintained that the Tribunal as therefore patently wrong in its decision and had completely misapprehended the case presented in that vein and that had coloured its vision, denying it the composure and dispassionate consideration of the case, adding that “it was the cloudy vision that made the lower court to gloss over the issue as to whether the right body had conducted the primary that nominated the 11threspondent as the candidate in the election.
 
The Appeal Court made it clear that the decision arrived at by the Tribunal was perverse and the right course of action, is to set aside the decision.
 
“Consequently, the perverse decision which held that the 11th respondent had been properly and legitimately sponsored by the 12th respondent, must and is hereby set aside. Issue No 1 is hereby resolved in favour of the appellants and against the respondents” the Appeal Court stated
The other two justices in the panel, T.O. Awotoye JCA and B.S. Sanga JCA concurred with the lead judgment written by the Chairman of the panel, A. D. Yahaya.
 
Meanwhile, Umeh on Tuesday told journalists that the judgment has clearly removed Uche Ekwunife and PDP from participating in the coming election because “if you are not qualified to contest election, you will not be part of the repeat election.”
 
“So, Uche Ekunife is now out of the election, so also PDP. We have heard rumours that PDP is scheduling to hold ward congress on 7th of January and thereafter hold primary on the 9th of January and nominate their candidate. So, it is a laughable plan.
 
“One is that nomination for participation in this election ended in December 2014.
The guidelines given by INEC stated clearly that the guidelines for doing any of these processes ended in December and the withdrawal from the race that will enable substitution to take place has also ended.
 
“We have passed stage of withdrawal, we have passed nomination processes. So, anybody who is not qualified to contest the election, will no longer pertake in the repeat election. So, PDP and Uche Ekwunife are out of the election as it is and that is the law” Umeh said.