Anambra Central Senatorial Dispute: Supreme Court dismisses Ekwunife’s appeal

Uche Ekwunife

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal by Uche Ekwunife challenging the nullification of her election to represent Anambra Central Senatorial District at the Senate.

The Anambra State Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in Awka had nullified the election which she purportedly won in the 2015 general elections under the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Court of Appeal had affirmed the order of the tribunal for a fresh conduct of the election.

However, before the repeat of the election as ordered by the court, Ms. Ekwunife on January 8, 2016, defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Her attempt to pick the ticket of her new political party to contest the re-run poll failed as older members of the party kicked against it, contending that she had to wait for her turn.

Delivering judgment on the appeal, Justice Amina Augie held that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to entertain disputes emanating from the conduct of National Assembly elections.

Mrs. Augie said that Section 246(3) of the 1999 Constitution empowered the Court of Appeal to be the terminal point of all disputes emanating from State and Federal legislative elections.

“The apex court lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine Ekwunife’s appeal in the circumstance.

“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 judgment on a National Assembly Election Petition appeal, the judgment becomes final.

“For the umpteenth time, the Constitution does not approve of the apex court to entertain this appeal no matter how cleverly it has been framed,’’ Mrs. Augie held.

She said that the objections raised by Victor Umeh of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), who was Ms. Ekwunife’s challenger at the lower courts, were apt.

“Umeh’s preliminary objections to Ekwunife’s appeal succeeded as this court lacks jurisdiction to hear this appeal on its merits. The appeal is struck out,’’ she said.

Earlier, Justice Augie had in a ruling rejected an appeal by Ms. Ekwunife for her reinstatement as PDP candidate to contest the senatorial election.

Mrs. Augie held that the appellant lost the legitimacy to demand for such benefit when she and the PDP were barred from participating in the election.

Alex Izinyon, counsel to Ms. Ekwunife, had urged the court to re-instate his client to her seat at the Senate.

He had also urged the court to hold that the decision of the tribunal amounted to nullity as it dealt with issues of nomination and sponsorship which were not within its jurisdiction to determine.

Patrick Ikweato, counsel to Mr. Umeh and APGA, countered Mr. Izinyon’s submission, urging the court to dismiss the appeal as it lacked jurisdiction to entertain it.

Mr. Ikweato argued that the appeal was an abuse of court process, adding that Section 246 (3) of the Constitution made the Court of Appeal as the final court to handle the matter.

He said that Ms. Ekwunife was no longer a member of the PDP after she defected to APC, where she contested the party primary and lost.

Mr. Ikweato also said that PDP had obtained judgment of a Federal High Court where Ms. Ekwunife’s membership of the party was stripped.

He maintained that the Court of Appeal’s decision which upheld the tribunal’s judgment stemmed from the fact that the appellant was not qualified.

Speaking to journalists after the court session, Ms. Ekwunife expressed displeasure over the decision of the court.

On his part, Mr. Umeh described the decision of the court as victory for democracy and the rule of law.

He said that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must immediately rise to the occasion and fix date for the senatorial election.

Mr. Umeh further said the people of Anambra Central Senatorial District had suffered from long period of non-representation at the Senate. (NAN)

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