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Anambra Central: Okonkwo writes INEC over Certificate of Return

Dr. Obiora Okonkwo
Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, who was on Wednesday declared Senator for Anambra Central by a Federal High Court in Abuja, has written the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), demanding immediate issuance of a Certificate of Return to him, as ordered by the court.

Justice John Tsoho had in a judgment on Wednesday, ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Dr. Okonkwo without delay.

He also ordered the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to swear-in Dr. Okonkwo to occupy the vacant seat of Anambra Central in the Senate.

The letter to INEC dated December 14, 2017 and titled “Request to issue certificate of return to Dr. Obiora Okonkwo in compliance with judgment of the Federal High court in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1092/2014 delivered on 13th December, 2017”, signed by Chief Sebastine Hon SAN, read in part: “we respectfully, but firmly, request sir, that you issue/cause to be issued, our client the said Certificate of Return as ordered by the Federal High court, forthwith, to enable our client present himself to the leadership of the senate for inauguration”.

The letter was received at the office of the INEC chairman at about 4.30pm on Thursday.

It further reads: “we are counsel to Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate that won the party’s nomination to contest the March 2015 election for Anambra Central Senatorial District but was unlawfully and wrongfully denied the ticket, which ticket was handed to Chief (Mrs.) Uche Ekwunife. He is hereinafter referred to as “our client”; and we hereby write on his instructions.

“Aggrieved by that clearly unlawful decision of the PDP, our client took out an originating summons in December 2014, challenging the actions of the PDP. Joined as defendants in the suit were PDP, then chairman of PDP, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Chief (Mrs.) Uche Ekwunife.

“In the course of the trial, however, counsel to the PDP and the PDP chairman; counsel to INEC and Counsel to Chief (Mrs.) Uche Ekwunife, all submitted to judgment, as per the claims in the amended originating summons and the motion for judgment filed and served on them by the plaintiff (our client). It is instructive to note that the Motion on Notice sought for consequential orders, including an order that INEC should forthwith issue our client with a certificate of return and that he should be immediately sworn in as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“In the course of the hearing on Wednesday, 13th December, 2017, all defence counsel again conceded and submitted to judgment; hence the Hon. Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja entered judgment for our client as per claims in the amended originating summons as prayed in relief 3 of the motion on notice”.

Dr. Okonkwo also attached all documents referred to in the letter made available to INEC.

He reminded INEC that “your Commission, sir, has already scheduled a fresh election into this senatorial district for 18/1/2018” adding that “we however, submit as follows: that the decision of the Court of Appeal ordering fresh election, delivered on 7/12/2015 did not nullify the victory of the sponsoring political party –the PDP – but merely held that Hon. Uche Ekwunife, the so-called PDP candidate for the election, was not duly nominated by the PDP.

“The Court of Appeal in that decision also held that the APGA candidate, Chief (Sir) Victor Umeh, could also not be declared winner of the said election, since he did not poll the highest number of votes.

“Therefore, that the Court of Appeal did not nullify the March 2015 election into Anambra Central Senatorial District but merely held that Hon. Uche Ekwunife could not prove her due nomination by the PDP. Now that the Federal High Court in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1092/2014 has held that our client was duly nominated candidate of the PDP in that election; and in view of the settle case law that it is a political party as opposed to a candidate that wins an election, our client should, as ordered by Justice Tsoho J., be issued a Certificate of Return forthwith, to enable the senate leadership inaugurate him as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Dr. Okonkwo also reminded INEC that his suit predated any other matter affecting Anambra Central senatorial district as it was a pre-election suit.

He said “at the time the decision of the election tribunal was delivered, our client’s suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1092/2014 was already pending; and INEC was defendant therein.”

Okonkwo said he could not have been bound by the outcome of the election tribunal matter because he was not a party to it, adding that an earlier ruling on the matter by Justice A. R. Mohammed, also of the Federal High court, had held that “it was the 4th defendant (Ekwunife) that was disqualified as a person from contesting in the election and not PDP as a party”, and that “the plaintiff’s cause of action is different from the cause of action canvassed and argued at the election tribunal and on appeal at the Court of Appeal”.

In the concluding part of the letter, Okonkwo told INEC that “it is a notorious principle of law that decisions in pre-election matters outlast and rank superior to whatever happens in post-election electoral disputes. That is why in a countless number of cases, superior courts of record have ordered candidates to take the place of the ‘candidates’ who were alleged to have been nominated and who had gone ahead to contest and ‘win’ in the consequent general elections”.

References were made to the Supreme Court judgments in Jev v Iyortyom, Gbileve v Addingi and Amaechi V INEC to buttress the position of the law.
INEC’s response is still being awaited.​

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