Anambra central senatorial dispute: Umeh wins, as S/Court throws out Ekunife’s appeal

THE Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal brought before it by a representative of Anambra Central Senatorial District, former Senator Uche Ekunife challenging the nullification of her election.

The Anambra State Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal Division in Awka, in Anambra state had nullified the election that produced Ekunife as Senator representing the Anambra Central Senatorial District in the 2015 general elections.

The Tribunal and the Appeal Court had ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh rerun election for the Senatorial District.

Dissatisfied with the decisions at the Tribunal and Court of Appeal, Ekunife approached the Supreme Court to set aside the judgments.

But delivering judgment in the dispute on Friday by a five man panel of Justices of the apex court headed by Justice Tanko Mohammed, the court held that it had no jurisdiction to entertain matters emanating from the conduct of National Assembly elections.

In the lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Amina Augie, the court affirmed the position of Chief Victor Umeh of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) who was Ekunife’s challenger at the lower courts.

Justice Augie held that the Court of Appeal is the terminal point of all disputes from the National Assembly polls, adding that the apex court lacked the jurisdiction to hear and determine Ekunife’s appeal in respect of the Anambra Central Senatorial District election dispute.

“Looking closely at the wordings of Section 246 (3), it is clear that the decision of the Court of Appeal is final. The decision, therefore has no business climbing or driving to this court for adjudication because this court is completely bereft of jurisdiction to entertain and determine any such appeal from the lower court.

“Once the court below delivers its judgment on a National Assembly Election Petition Appeal, the judgment is final and this court has no jurisdiction to hear any appeals related there to, no matter how cleverly framed,” Justice Augie said.

She further declared that Umeh’s preliminary objections to Ekunife’s appeal succeeded, saying, “this court lacks jurisdiction. This appeal is struck out.”

It would be recalled that the counsel to the appellant (Ekunife) Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), while moving the appeal had urged the apex court to restate his client to her seat at the Senate.

He urged the court to hold that the decision of Anambra Central Senatorial District amount to a nullity because the Tribunal and Court of Appeal had dealt with the issues of nomination and sponsorship which they had  no jurisdiction to determine it.

Ekunife’s position was vehemently challenged by Chief Patrick Ikweato (SAN) who represented Chief Victor Umeh, APGA, and contestant for the Senate.

Ikweato had urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction; saying the appeal was an abuse of court process.


According to him, Section 246 (3) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) made the Court of Appeal the final court on matters relating to National Assembly elections.

Ikweato argued that Ekunife was no longer a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) having decamped to All Progressives Congress (APC), where she contested the party primary and lost.

Secondly, the counsel submitted that PDP had obtained judgment of a Federal High Court where Ekunife had denounced her membership of PDP and added that the Court of Appeal decision which upheld the Tribunal judgment was based on the fact that Ekunife was not qualified.

 


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