The delayed Anambra Central senatorial rerun election has, no doubt, become an issue of great concern to most discerning Nigerians, who believe that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) no longer has reason to continue to put the exercise on hold. After the Supreme Court pronouncement of February 10, 2017 that Court of Appeal decision on National Assembly election matters is final, it expected that by now INEC would have done the needful and fixed a date for the rerun poll in Anambra Central which has lingered for too long.
In the judgement delivered by the apex court, following the appeal brought by Mrs. Uche Ekwunife whose election as Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District was quashed by the Appellate Court, Justice Amina Augie said: “Looking closely at the wordings of Section 246 (3), it is clear that the decision of the Court of Appeal is final. This court is completely bereft of jurisdiction to entertain the appeal. Once the Court of Appeal delivers its judgement on a National Assembly Election Petition Appeal, the judgement becomes final.”
INEC was about to conduct the Anambra Central rerun poll on March 5, 2016, but suddenly postponed the exercise indefinitely, after a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Anwuli Chikere ordered it to include the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The judge was reported to have directed PDP to replace its candidate, Ekwunife, who had at that time defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) following the nullification of her election based on invalid sponsorship by the PDP in the March 28, 2015 poll.
The electoral body, knowing full well, that Chikere’s ruling in favour of PDP was against the verdict of the Court of Appeal, which disqualified PDP candidate and barred the party from participating, suspended the conduct of the rerun and appealed the judgement.
The electoral umpire was insistent that fresh candidates are not allowed in a court-ordered rerun poll, anchoring its position on a decided case between Labour Party and INEC by Supreme Court since February 13, 2009.
A year after her contentious judgement on the side of PDP that gave rise to the series of litigations responsible for the unnecessary delay in the conduct of Anambra Central rerun, Justice Chikere, recently, dismissed a suit brought by Sharon Ikeazor seeking to compel INEC to accept her as a substitute to Dr. Chris Ngige. Ngige, the current Minister of Labour and Employment was the candidate of APC for the annulled election. He had said he was not interested in partaking in the rerun.
Ikeazor was picked by APC to replace him. Ruling on the Ikeazor’s suit, Justice Chikere held that the time for political parties to nominate candidates for the 2015 elections had expired.
Therefore, as it stands, APC can only participate in the rerun if Ngige decides to contest. As for PDP, the party has been completely knocked out of the race by the December 7, 2015 verdict of the Enugu Court of Appeal duly affirmed by the highest court in the land.
In his reaction to Chikere’s latest judgement barring Ikeazor as APC candidate, the flag bearer of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, who is obviously the frontrunner in the Anambra Central rerun contest said: “INEC has nothing holding it anymore from going ahead to conduct the Anambra Central senatorial election going by the judgement by the Federal High Court Abuja which dismissed the suit by Sharon Ikeazor seeking to compel INEC to accept her as a substitute to Ngige for Anambra Central rerun election which is consistent with the law and the firm position of INEC on the matter all along…
So there is no other case that INEC can wait for before fixing the date of the election.”
•Jegede, a media practitioner, writes from Abuja
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