The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Wednesday fixed January 12, 2018, to decide the fate of the rerun elections for Anambra Central Senatorial District election, scheduled to take place on Saturday 13th January 2018.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approached the court with an application to vary its consent judgment delivered on December 13, 2017, directing the electoral body to issue a Certificate of Return to Dr Obiora Okonkwo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the Senatorial election.
In the said judgment, the trial Judge, Justice John Tsoho ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Obiora Okonkwo as the winner of the Anambra Central Senatorial seat.
The pre-election matter which commenced in 2014 was brought by Okonkwo under section 87 of the Electoral Act, which gives candidates or aspirants of political parties who were unlawfully denied nomination, right to approach a court to seek redress.
Specifically, during the hearing of the suit, counsel for the 1st and 2nd defendants and the 4th defendants respectively, Messer I.E. Umeji and E.O. Okoli stated their non opposition to the motion for judgment and also adopted the processes that had been filed by the respective defendants to the effect of not contesting the plaintiff’s suit.
Also, counsel to INEC (3rd defendant), confirmed that his client did not file any counter affidavit to the plaintiff’s matter.
He added that the 3rd defendant, as an impartial umpire is, not inclined into delving into such matters and that as a responsible organisation, INEC is ready to abide by the decision of the court.
Justice Tsoho consequently entered judgment for the plaintiff and granted his reliefs in accordance with the prayers which arise from proceedings related to the said Anambra Central senatorial district election.
INEC is yet to comply with the judgment of the Federal High Court which has not been appealed against.
Rather, the Commission through its external counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) approached the court with an application to vary the said judgment.
He promised the said motion on the grounds that the said consent judgment was delivered after the Court of Appeal had in three judgments delivered on November 20, 2017, ordered the Commission to conduct a rerun election for the disputed senatorial seat within 90 days.
He argued that the INEC counsel who gave his consent to the December 13 judgment of the Federal High Court failed to draw the court’s attention to the three subsisting judgments of the Court of Appeal.
Awomolo argued that if the court’s attention was drawn to the said judgment of the appellate court ordering the conduct of a rerun election, it would not have entered the consent judgment in favour of Okonkwo.
However, his application was vehemently opposed to by counsel to Okonkwo, the PDP and Mrs Ekwunife who urged the court to dismissed it with cost.
Chief Sabastine Hon (SAN) who was with Festus Keyamo (SAN) for Okonkwo submitted that the application was incompetent, vague and an abuse of the court process.
Hon who further challenged the validity of the INEC processes submitted that once there is invalid process before the court, the court must declare them null and void.
He told the court that before the consent judgment was entered, the court was addressed on the efficacy or the implication of the judgments of the Court of Appeal, but counsel to the Commission did not raise any argument but submitted to judgment.
Hon further submitted that based on the Supreme Court authority in Hassan Vs Aliyu (2010), both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal are subordinated to the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in pre-election matters.
“Therefore, the decision of the Federal High Court is not void or illegal even by the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
Counsel to the PDP, I.E. Umeji and counsel to Mrs Ekwunife, E.O. Okoli aligned themselves to the submissions of Hon in urging the court to dismiss INEC’s application for lacking in merit.
In addition, Okoli submitted that the application was tantamount to asking the court which is now fontus officios to seat on an appeal against its own judgment.
After listening to submissions to counsel to both parties, Justice Tsoho fixed Friday, January 12, 2018, for judgment.