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Anambra Central: INEC Chairman risks jail over rejection of court order

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu
Dr. Obiora Okonkwo
The gates of prison are yawning to welcome the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, over his refusal to obey the decision of a Federal High Court which on December 13, 2017 ordered him to issue Dr. Obiora Okonkwo a certificate of return to enable him be sworn in as Senator representing Anambra South.

This followed the filing of a contempt application, seeking to commit the INEC boss to prison for disobedience of lawful court order, at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Thursday.

Titled ‘Notice of Consequences of Disobedience of Order of Court’, otherwise known as Form 48, the INEC chairman was told to “take notice that unless you obey the direction contained in the consent judgment of this honourable court made by Hon. Justice John Tsoho on 13/12/17 already served on you on the 19th day of December, 2017, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison”.

The Form 48, which was filed in court for Dr. Okonkwo by the law firm of Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN), was filed Thursday afternoon at the registry of the Federal High Court.

The INEC chairman had refused to obey the orders of Justice Tsoho, who on December 13, 2017, while entering judgment in a pre-election matter brought to court by Dr. Okonkwo in 2014, ordered the Commission to immediately issue the plaintiff with a certificate of return.

The court also ordered the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, to immediately swear in Dr. Okonkwo having been satisfied that he was the validly nominated candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who must enjoy the party’s uncontested victory in the March 2015 senatorial elections for Anambra Central.

Copies of the judgment and the enrolled order had been served on INEC by a bailiff from the Federal High Court. Okonkwo’s counsel, Chief Hon (SAN), had also served copies on INEC. But the chairman, Prof. Yakubu, has refused to obey the court’s order.

Prof. Yakubu’s refusal to heed the order of court prompted a protest, last Thursday, by youths from Anambra Central, who protested before the commission’s headquarters while demanding that a certificate of return be issued Dr. Okonkwo.

Meanwhile, Dr. Okonkwo has also filed a suit seeking an injunction restraining INEC from going ahead with the conduct of a rerun election in Anambra Central on January 13, 2018.

The suit, with number FHC/ABJ/CS/1294/2017 has 29 political parties involved with Anambra Central as defendants.

It seeks “an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the first defendant/respondent (INEC), by itself or its staff, officers, employees, appointees, officials or agents, anyhow so called, from conducting or causing to be conducted fresh, rerun or any other type of election into Anambra Central Senatorial district of Anambra State, pending the determination of the substantive suit.”

He also asked for “an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 2nd – 29th defendants (parties and candidates) from presenting themselves as political parties/candidates at the said rerun election pending determination of the substantive suit.”

Dr. Okonkwo also asked for other consequential orders as the court would like to make.

He argued that despite being declared winner, by a Federal High Court, of the Anambra Central senatorial election of March 2015, when it gave judgment on his pre-election suit, INEC had gone ahead to plan to hold a rerun election instead of issuing him with a certificate of return as ordered by the court.

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