Andy Uba, Stella Oduah, others ask INEC not to withdraw their Certificates of Return

Stella Oduah
Stella Oduah

Nine National Assembly members from Anambra State, including Senators Andy Uba and Stella Oduah, have written the Independent National Electoral Commission, disputing reports that they were sacked by the Supreme Court on Friday.
Apart from Messrs. Uba (Anambra South) and Oduah lAnambra North) who are Senators, the other lawmakers believed to be affected are Lynda Ikpeazu, Anayo Nnebe, Tony Nwoye, Chris Azubogu, Chukwuka Onyema, Obinna Chidoka and Eucharia Azodo who are members of the House of Representatives.

Uche Ekwunife who represented Anambra South had earlier been sacked by the Appeal Court which ordered fresh election in her constituency.

All the lawmakers, who are members of Peoples Democratic, were sacked by the Supreme Court which subsequently replaced them with other PDP members.

The apex court’s decision followed an appeal by a faction of the PDP in Anambra state, led by Ejike Oguebego, which sought that it be recognised as the authentic executive of the party in the state and therefore the right organ to conduct primary elections to choose candidates for the 2015 elections in the state.

The other faction, led by Augustine Akobundo, submitted the list containing the names of the nine lawmakers and Ms. Ekwunife to INEC. Backed by the national leadership of the party, the commission accepted Mr. Akobundo’s list.

Both factions held separate primaries.

But the Supreme Court affirmed the authenticity of Mr. Ogbuebego’s executive, the validity of its primaries and list of candidates – Chris Uba, John Emeka and Annie Okonkwo – and others who emerged therefrom.

However, in a letter to INEC Chairman through their counsel, Arthur Okafor, the lawmakers asked that the Commission should not be misled to withdraw their Certificates of Return.

They said the Supreme Court did not sack them; rather it affirmed that the national leadership, not the state executive of the party had authority over submission of candidates for national assembly elections.

Meanwhile, the PDP national leadership forwarded to INEC the names of candidates sent to it by the Akobundo executive — Messrs Uba, Oduah, Ekwunife and others. That executive has now been declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

​Of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the letter by the embattled lawmakers read in part, “This appeal has now excited some attention and has been subjected to blatant and crude misinterpretations which have necessitated this correspondence.

“This correspondence is aimed at setting the record straight so that your good self will not again be misled by your legal department into unjustifiably occasioning an unnecessary confusion in the process. The judgment under reference is SC. 37 /2015: CHIEF EJIKE OGUEBEGO & ANOR v. PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY & ORS.

“May I draw your attention to the most pertinent segment of the Judgment for the purpose of the status of the legislators sponsored by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at pages 46, 47 and 48 of the Judgment where their lordships of the Supreme Court held as follows:-

“The Court below, however, veered from the course set by the trial court and took the matter to another level which clearly failed to take into consideration the main issue before the trial court. On page 1291 of Volume 3 of the record of appeal the Court of Appeal held as follows:-

“It is established beyond peradventure that it is the National Executive Committee of the appellant which has the power to conduct a valid primary for the nomination or selection of candidates for a general election. See EMEKA V. OKADIGBOsupra and EMENIKE v. PDP supra. Reliefs 3, 5 and 6 were predicated on the possibility of congress and primary being conducted by the caretaker committee set up by the appellant. There was no evidence to back this up. Exhibit D at page 32 of Volume 1 of the record (the letter of PDP appointing the South East Executive to oversee the affairs of the Anambra State Chapter “until congresses are held”) does not suggest that the congresses were to be held by the South East Zonal Executive.”

The letter further stated that, “Our clients were duly nominated by the National Executive of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2015 General Election and they contested the Election and were duly returned as elected.

“They were subsequently issued with their respective Certificates of Return and have since been performing the duties for which they were elected by their respective constituents before the election and during the nomination process, the National Executive duly forwarded our clients’ names which the Commission duly received.

“Thereafter owing to some shenanigans by some staff of the Commission whom our clients believed were working for a self-styled State Executive Committee which were determined against the serene and settled position of the law to sponsor candidates for the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), our clients’ names were relegated.

“This created a situation whereby the legal department of the Commission commenced playing a “musical chair” with list of candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when they were fully aware that the only authority that is competent to forward names of candidates is the National Executive Committee by virtue of correspondence signed by its National Chairman and Secretary. In two (2) remarkable pronouncements, the Supreme Court of Nigeria eloquently held that no list other than that forwarded by the National Executive of the PeoplesDemocratic Party (PDP) shall be countenanced by the Commission.

Read full letter by the lawmakers to INEC below.

29th January, 2016

The Chairman,

Independent National

Electoral Commission (INEC)

Zambezi Crescent

Maitama District,

Abuja

Dear Sir,

THE STATUS OF PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP) SENATORS AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

RE: JUDGMENT IN SC. 37/2015

We act as Solicitors and Counsel for and on behalf of the undermentioned persons whom we shall hereinafter refer to as our client namely:-

​1.​SENATOR STELLA ODUAH

​2.​SENATOR ANDY UBA

​3.​HON. LYNDA CHUBA IKPEAZU

​4.​HON. ANAYO NNEBE

​5.​HON. TONY NWOYE OKECHUKWU

​6.​HON. CHRIS AZUBOGU

​7.​HON. CHUKWUKA C. ONYEMA

​8.​HON. OBINNA CHIDOKA

​9.​HON. EUCHARIA AZODO

Our clients are members of the National Assembly representing two (2) Senatorial Districts of Anambra State and seven (7) Federal Constituencies within

Anambra State. Our clients were duly nominated by the National Executive of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2015 General Election and they contested the Election and were duly returned as elected. They were subsequently issued with their respective Certificates of Return and have since been performing the duties for which they were elected by their respective constituents before the election and during the nomination process, the National Executive duly forwarded our clients’ names which the Commission duly received. Thereafter owing to some shenanigans by some staff of the Commission whom our clients believed were working for a self-styled State Executive Committee which were determined against the serene and settled position of the law to sponsor candidates for the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), our clients’ names were relegated. This created a situation whereby the legal department of the Commission commenced playing a “musical chair” with list of candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when they were fully aware that the only authority that is competent to forward names of candidates is the National Executive Committee by virtue of correspondence signed by its National Chairman and Secretary. In two (2) remarkable pronouncements, the Supreme Court of Nigeria eloquently held that no list other than that forwarded by the National Executive of the PeoplesDemocratic Party (PDP) shall be countenanced by the Commission.

In EMEKA v. OKADIGBO (2012) 18 NWLR (Part 1331) 55 at 87 Paras H-C the Court held thus:-

“A diligent reading of the above reveals that it is the National Executive Committee of the PDP that is responsible for the conduct of the party’s National Assembly primaries. The Court of Appeal was correct. There can only be one valid primary and that is the primaries conducted by the National Executive Committee. A primary conducted by the State Chapter of the PDP is not a primary. It is an illegal contraption that carries with it no rights. It is a complete nullity. The primaries conducted on the 8th of January, 2011 was conducted by the National Executive Committee of the PDP, and it was the only authentic primaries conducted by the PDP to choose its candidate for the Anambra North Senatorial Seat. On the other hand, the purported primaries conducted on the 10th or 12th of January, 2011 were conducted by the State Chapter of the PDP. It is null and void for the purpose of choosing the PDP’s candidate for the Senatorial elections. It is clear that at no time were two parallel primaries conducted”.

4.03​In EMENIKE v. PDP (2012) 12 NWLR (Part 1315) 556 at 594 Para H, the Supreme Court in interpreting a similar provision was emphatic that the PDP primaries conducted by the Abia State Executive Committee ​of PDP was illegal as it was not empowered to conduct primary election and that being the case, the Respondent who emerged from the said primary was not properly elected. Further at page 602 para H, the Supreme Court settled the position thus:-

​​“It must be elementary now, that the only valid primary is the one ​​conducted by the National Executive Committee of the PDP. The ​​primary which the Appellant participated in was illegal, it having ​​been conducted by the State Executive of the PDP”.

Also the Apex Court in SC.4/2014, SC.7/2014 and SC.752/2013: YAR’ADUA & ORS v. YANDOMA & ORS delivered on 19th December, 2014 per Mary UkaegoPeter-Odili JSC at page 34 held thus:

“At the root of these decisions cited above is the fact that must be ingrained well in mind of the court and litigants that who becomes the candidate of a political party is an issue to be solely determined by that political party and well in its domestic realm and not for the interference of any agency or the court. In that wise, since all the political parties are National, it is its National Executive Committee or delegates therefrom who can validly conduct a primary election or conduct a process through which the particular political party is to bring forth its candidate and no other arm of that party including a state organ of that party. That was the gravamen of the case GARBA YAKUBU LADO & ORS. V. CPC & ORS (2012) All FWLR (Part 607) 623 and which the Supreme Court declined jurisdiction and also decided that neither the Court of Appeal nor the trial High Court had jurisdiction”.

It was therefore odd for the Legal Department of the Commission to have ill advised the Commission to purport to accept the list forwarded by a self-styled State Executive, while disregarding the list already domiciled with the Commission and forwarded by the National Executive of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). By so doing, the Commission purported to have acted pursuant to what was said to be an Order of Court made by the Federal High Court Abuja Division in FHC/ABJ/CS/854/2014.

Your Honour, a perusal of the Order made in the said proceedings will not disclose any place where the Federal High Court Ordered the Commission to accept a list of Candidates forwarded by a State Chapter of the PeoplesDemocratic Party (PDP). That would have been a total impertinence if not rascality as every High Court is duty bound to obey the established principles of law as laid down by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Thus, with or without an Order of Court, on no account would the legal department or any other authority advise the Commission to accept a list forwarded by a self-styled State Executive.

It is also on record that our Client appealed the decision of the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal which set aside the decision. Upon an appeal to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court on 29th January, 2016 allowed the appeal.

This appeal has now excited some attention and has been subjected to blatant and crude misinterpretations which have necessitated this correspondence. This correspondence is aimed at setting the record straight so that your good self will not again be misled by your legal department into unjustifiably occasioning an unnecessary confusion in the process. The judgment under reference is SC. 37 /2015: CHIEF EJIKE OGUEBEGO & ANOR v. PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY & ORS.

May I draw your attention to the most pertinent segment of the Judgment for the purpose of the status of the legislators sponsored by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at pages 46, 47 and 48 of the Judgment where their lordships of the Supreme Court held as follows:-

“The Court below, however, veered from the course set by the trial court and took the matter to another level which clearly failed to take into consideration the main issue before the trial court. On page 1291 of Volume 3 of the record of appeal the Court of Appeal held as follows:-

“It is established beyond peradventure that it is the National Executive Committee of the appellant which has the power to conduct a valid primary for the nomination or selection of candidates for a general election. See EMEKA V. OKADIGBOsupra and EMENIKE v. PDP supra. Reliefs 3, 5 and 6 were predicated on the possibility of congress and primary being conducted by the caretaker committee set up by the appellant. There was no evidence to back this up. Exhibit D at page 32 of Volume 1 of the record (the letter of PDP appointing the South East Executive to oversee the affairs of the Anambra State Chapter “until congresses are held”) does not suggest that the congresses were to be held by the South East Zonal Executive.”

I hold the view that the Court below misconceived the real issue in controversy at the trial Court which gave birth to the appeal before it. There was no controversy as to which organ of the 1st Respondent (PDP) has power to conduct primaries. I can say it for the umpteenth time that the main issue was that stated by the learned trial judge. That is, whether the 1st Respondent can ignore the subsisting order of Court and set up a caretaker committee for Anambra State PDP in brazen contempt of the Court. Period. Other issues that were thrown up were just to garnish the issue. Therefore, the Court below having left the main issues in controversy and be persuaded to dwell on the issues as to which organ of PDP has power to conduct primary, went on a frolic and cannot be allowed to stand.

Accordingly, I hold that there was no feature in the case submitted by the Appellants that warranted the court below to apply the cases of OKADIGBO v. EMEKA & Ors (Supra) and EMENIKE v. PDP (supra). The two authorities decided on which organ of a Political Party has power to conduct primaries. This is not the issue in this case. Thus, this issue is yet again resolved in favour of the Appellants.”

The Supreme Court did not order the withdrawal of the Certificates of Return issued by the Commission to our clients. They did not hold that the faction of the PDP had the right to sponsor candidates for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They did not equally authorize the Commission to substitute our clients with the individuals whose names were on the list improperly allowed by the Commission in obvious disregard of the series of judgments of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to the effect that it is only the National Executive of the party that has the vires to sponsor candidates.

The Supreme Court could not have for after all, the same Court in a sister appeal- SC.29/2015 ODEDOv P.D.P (2015) 13 NWLR (Pt 1476) 229 at 266-267 (para H-D) with respect to one of the said state sponsored candidates arising from the same Federal High Court judgment held thus-

“Suffice it to say it is the National Executive of the PDP that is imbued with the responsibility for the conduct of the party’s National Assembly Primaries. Any purported attempt to conduct such primary by the State Chapter of the PDP cannot be validly characterized as competent. The act is totally illegal and will confer no right as it is a nullity and also constituting an abuse of court process.

It is interesting, I must say that the case under consideration like Emeka & Okadigbo originates also from the same Anambra State. This is worrisome as it gives a clear indication that the State Executive Committee of the party appears not to know their limit and hence the continued persistence in usurping of power not due to them. This is inspite of the pronouncement made by this Court and its orders. The practice is a flagrant abuse of power and the national body will do well and draw the attention of the erring state committee thereto. Judgments of court are to be obeyed and serve a guide for now and the future”.

It must be noted that as far as our clients are concerned, the restoration of their names as candidates was not pursuant to the Court of Appeal decision setting aside the decision of the Federal High Court. The Judgment was perhaps a wake-up call. What the Commission did by restoring the names of our clients as candidates was simply to adhere to the settled principles of law to the effect that it is only the National Executive that possessed the vires to nominate candidates for election. The Supreme Court of Nigeria was equally emphatic that the case which eventually got to the Court and on which they delivered the judgment now sought to be misinterpreted, had nothing to do with nomination of candidates by a body other than the National Executive of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that matter having been fully settled by numerous, previous decisions of the Court.

In recognition of the fact that the matter does not involve sponsorship of candidates for the PeoplesDemocratic Party, all the candidates illegally sponsored by the said Oguebego led State Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Partyinstituted Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2015: SENATOR ANNIE CLEMENT OKONKWO & 43 ORS v. INEC & ORS in which they are seeking a restoration of their names as the candidates of the Party. The said suit is still pending and is also the subject of interlocutory appeal at the Court of Appeal in CA/A/313/2015.

Having regard to the foregoing, we urge you to resist the machinations of those who are ill motivated and bent on causing confusion in the system. If you find that our clients were nominated by the National Executive of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is the case, then in the absence of a Court Order, there will be no compulsion or justification on your part to interfere with the mandate vested in our clients by the PDP and the electorate.

Please find attached the said judgment of the Supreme Court in SC.37/2015 and the Originating Summons instituted at the Federal High Court as FHC/ABJ/CS/177/2015: SENATOR ANNIE CLEMENT OKONKWO & 43 ORS v. INEC & ORS which is still pending.

May we anticipate your mature and detached approach to this matter so as to ensure that justice, equity and good conscience are maintained.

Thank you for your co-operation.

Yours faithfully,

____________________

ARTHUR OBI OKAFOR (SAN)


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