Anambra South: One judgement too many

The political terrain of Anambra South Senatorial District was last Monday jolted by a report of a judgement of an Abuja Federal High Court presided by Justice Bello Kawu, ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a certificate of Return to Dr. Obinna Uzor and to withdraw the initial Certificate of Return from Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, the incumbent senator representing the district in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.

Uzor’s supporters, who were thrown into a festive mood immediately news of the judgement broke, started preparing for the Certificate of Return presentation ceremony at INEC headquarters, Abuja. However, there was no doubt that they were unmindful of the implications of the judgement.

It would be recalled that Uzor contested the primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) along with Chief Chris Uba and Chuma Nzeribe, but at the end of the exercise Uba emerged as the candidate of the party in the said election with Nzeribe as the first runner up, while Uzor came distant third.

But, in the said suit filed by Uzor, challenging the election of Ubah, he claimed that there was no primary election conducted by the Young Progressive Party (YPP), which nominated Ubah as its candidate for the National Assembly election.

Uzor further claimed that the National Examination Council (NECO) certificate tendered by Ubah was forged. He thereby accused the YPP candidate of lying on oath.

In his judgement, Justice Kawu dismissed Ubah and declared that the 2nd defendant, (YPP), did not have the locus standi and should not have participated in the February general election for Anambra South Senatorial District.

He also declared that the 4th defendant, Uzoh, is the actual winner of the election having taken the second position in the election, and having the 1st and 2nd defendants disqualified for non-compliance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).

The judge therefore ordered the 3rd defendant, INEC, to issue Certificate of Return to Uzoh within 48 hours as the duly elected senator for Anambra South Senatorial District, being the candidate of the PDP and having scored the highest number of valid votes cast.

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He also ordered the Senate President and the Clerk to the National Assembly to swear in Uzoh as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Anambra South Senatorial District within 48 hours.

But, some political watchers were of the view that should the judgement be real, the only beneficiary of the ruling would have been Chief Chris Uba, who was the first runner up in the said election and not Uzor, whose name was never in the ballot and never participated in the exercise.

However, fresh facts have emerged that the said judgement and its execution was stalled by the same Justice Kawu, as he later restrained both INEC and the Clerk of the Senate from swearing in Uzor, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice filed by Senator Ubah’s counsel.

This followed a letter to INEC entitled Re: Suit No. CV/3044/18: Amani Anacletus Chuka vs Uhah Ifeanyi Patrick and three others, signed by counsel to Ubah, J.O Asoluka, (SAN).

The letter read in part: “On the 11th of April, 2019, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja sitting in Kubwa and presided over by the Hon. Justice Bellow Kawu delivered a judgment wherein it was declared that one Dr. Obinna Uzoh, who applied and was joined as the 4th Defendant in the said suit, is now the senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District and that INEC should issue him with a Certificate of  Return and that he should be so sworn in as the senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District.

“For the records, in the proceedings leading up to the judgement now being challenged, Senator Ubah was never served with any of the processes filed by both the claimant in the said suit and the 4th Defendant who sought to be joined. A perusal of the Originating Summons by which the suit was commenced would clearly reveal that the Claimant in the said suit never prayed the Court that the 4th Defendant be declared the senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District neither did the 4th Defendant himself file a Counter-Claim.

“It is therefore bizarre and bewildering how the learned trial judge came to the decision that he reached. Our client who is a firm believer in the rule of law and the sanctity of the judicial process upon becoming aware of this depressing development has approached the same court with both an ex-parte application and a Motion on Notice to have the said null judgment set aside having been delivered by a court starved of the requisite jurisdiction to have heard and disposed of same.

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“Pursuant to the foregoing, Motions No. M/1630/2019 and M/1631/2019 have been filed before the same court. The latest development that impelled this letter to you is that the said court, upon our application, has today being the 4th day of December, 2019 granted a Restraining Order against INEC and Dr. Obinna Uzor (the 4th Defendant) from taking challenged pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice which is Motion No. M/1631/2019 now adjourned to the 12th day of December, 2019.

“It is in the circumstances as the above that we feel compelled to forward the copy of both the Ex-Parte Order just granted together with all other relevant processes inclusive of the Motion on Notice and more importantly the abiding judgment of the Nigerian Court of Appeal delivered on the 29th day of October, 2019 affirming the victory and return of our client as the Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District in the Nigerian Senate for the Commission (who is known to be law-abiding) to be properly guided in the situations we all found ourselves in.

“Also in the interim injunction granted by the same Hon Justice Bello Kawu dated December 4th, 2019, the court said: ‘An Interim Injunction of this honourable court retraining the 3rd Defendant/Respondent (the Independence National Electoral Commission), the Clerk of the Nigeria Senate, the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or their assigns, privies, servant, or any other person acting under them or in concert with them or on their behalf howsoever named from taking any step aimed at giving effect to the judgment of this Hon. Court in Suit No. CV/3044/2018 pending the hearing and final disposal of the Motion on Notice seeking to set aside the Judgment in suit No. CV/3044/2018 filed herein.’

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“An Interim Injunction of this honourable court restraining the 4th Defendant/Respondent from either presenting himself to the clerk or President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for swearing in or taking any step(s) howsoever described towards giving effect to the judgment of the court.”

Against this backdrop, some political watchers in Anambra State, who spoke on the controversy trailing the purported judgement sacking Senator Uba, said Uzor should have gone to the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal to challenge the declaration by INEC that Ubah won the election rather than allowing the tribunal to discharge its duty in August, 2019 and the Appeal Court, ruling on the matter in October before he came up with the said judgement in November.

This is as it was gathered that Uzor had a judgement against Chris Uba’s emergence as the PDP senatorial candidate, but did not present it to the tribunal.

They further contended that the issue of NECO certificate, which Uzor alleged was forged, should not have come into the picture when it was verifiable before the examination body, while making reference to the Supreme Court judgement on the issue of primary election, which is an internal affair of a political party.

On his part, Senator Ubah, not only dismissed reports of his sack from the Senate, but urged his constituents to ignore such reports.

The lawmaker explained that the purported suit was filed against him in March, while the court ruled on it in April without his knowledge or that of his legal team.

He assured his constituents and Nigerians that the judgement would not stand because he had already approached the same court in a bid to upturn the ruling.

He said the court has fixed January 5, 2020 to determine the application he filed to vacate the judgement

As the people of Anambra South await the January date for hearing on the matter, political watchers posit that the manner and style, which some politicians adopt to return to relevance against the electoral process needs to be investigated for the purposes of posterity.

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