A Federal High Court in Abuja has dashed the hopes of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to field a candidate in the Anambra Central senatorial district election as it dismissed a suit brought by Sharon Ikeazor seeking to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept her as a substitute to Dr. Chris Ngige.
Ikeazor had dragged the INEC before Justice Anwuli Chikere, asking the court to compel the electoral umpire to accept her as the candidate of the party in place of Ngige who had withdrawn from the election.
However, delivering judgment on the matter on Tuesday in Abuja, Justice Chikere held that the time for political parties to nominate candidates for elective position in respect of the 2015 elections had elapsed.
The judge held: “The time for the nomination, withdrawal or substitution of candidates for the court-ordered election in Anambra Central senatorial district has elapsed.
“As decided by the Court of Appeal in the case of Labour Party against INEC, there is no room for fresh candidates in a court-ordered election.”
Consequently, the judge dismissed the suit for lacking in merit.
The Supreme Court had on February 10 put to rest the legal battle that had denied the people of Anambra Central senatorial district representation at the upper chamber of the National Assembly as it dismissed an appeal filed by Senator Uche Ekwunife challenging the nullification of her election for the district.
The Anambra State Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal Division in Enugu had nullified the election that produced Ekwunife who was a candidate of the PDP in the said poll and ordered the conduct of a fresh poll to fill the vacancy.
However, dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal, Ekwunife approached the Supreme Court to set aside the verdict.
But delivering judgment in the dispute last month, a five man panel of the apex court headed by Justice Tanko Mohammed, held that it had no jurisdiction to entertain matters emanating from the conduct of National Assembly elections.
In the lead judgment that was handed down by Justice Amina Augie, the court had affirmed the position of the respondent in the suit, Chief Victor Umeh of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) who was Ekwenife’s challenger at the lower courts.
Justice Augie had held that Appeal Court was the terminal point of all disputes over National Assembly polls, adding that the apex court lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine Ekwenife’s appeal in respect of the Anambra Central senatorial election dispute.
“Looking closely at the wordings of Section 246 (3), it is clear that the decision of the Court of Appeal is final. This, the decision, therefore has no business climbing or driving to this court for adjudication because this court is completely bereft of jurisdiction to entertain here and determine any such appeal from the lower court. “Once the court below delivers its judgment on a National Assembly Election Petition, 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 Ekwenife’s appeal succeeded, saying, “this court lacks jurisdiction. This appeal is struck out.”
Meanwhile, Umeh, the APGA flagbearer for the election while reacting to the judgment appealed to the INEC to hasten up the conduct of the Anambra Central senatorial rerun poll.
Umeh said: “The 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 re-run election which is consistent with the law and the firm position of INEC on the matter all along.
“The Supreme Court judgment of February 10, 2017 has completely removed the PDP from the election as it affirmed that the decision of the court of Appeal, Enugu Division on December 7, 2015 in respect of the Anambra Central senatorial election is final forever.
“The Court of Appeal had on December 7, 2015 nullified the election and ordered a fresh election upon disqualifying the PDP candidate Hon. Uche Ekwunife on the grounds on invalid sponsorship by the PDP in the election.
“So there is no other case that INEC can wait for before fixing the date of the election. The status of the APC has been defined by the court judgment yesterday as there is no change of candidate permissible in the fresh election.
“So the position now is that 14 out of 15 political parties that took part in the March 28, 2015 election with their previously nominated candidates are qualified to go for the re-run election. Only PDP is out of the election by the combined effects of the Court of Appeal judgments of December 7, 2015, the Supreme Court judgment of February 10, 2017 on the Anambra Central senatorial poll and the Supreme Court judgement of February 13, 2009 between Labour Party and INEC.”