INEC backs Andy Uba’s Application

The Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu yesterday adjourned indefinitely for ruling in the application filed by the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the 2007 election in Anambra State, Mr Andy Uba, seeking to be automatically sworn in upon the expiration of the tenure of Governor Peter Obi.

This came as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared to the surprise of the people who thronged the court that it was not opposed to Uba’s application, noting, however, that it was ready to abide by any ruling of the court.
INEC stated that it was looking up to the court for guidance ahead of the planned February 6, 2010 gubernatorial election in the state.

The court presided over by Justice J. S. Ngwuta announced the indefinite adjournment after listening to arguments by the various counsels who also adopted their written addresses in the course of the sitting, which lasted over five hours.
“This court shall adjourn for ruling, which would be communicated to the parties through their counsel at a later date,” Justice Ngwuta said.  In his submission while adopting his written addresses, counsel to the appellant, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had argued that his client was in court to seek for consequential relief since the same court had last year upheld his election of April 14, 2007. 

He noted that since his client had already been elected and his election affirmed by the Court of Appeal, it would be morally and legally wrong to deny him of the right to assume the office of the governor of Anambra State upon the expiration of Obi’s tenure.
“The Court of Appeal sitting here in Enugu gave a ruling setting aside the ruling of the lower tribunal, which had struck out the same case based on the Supreme Court ruling that Obi should serve out his tenure, making it clear that the dismissal of the matter based on the Supreme Court ruling was erroneous. We are therefore here to insist that there should be consequential relief that should be granted to the benefit of the appellant whose election was affirmed by the Appeal Court, which of course is the final court in this case,” Olanipekun who led three other senior advocates to defend Uba’s application said.
Counsel to INEC, Chief Amaechi Nwaiwu (SAN), had told the court that the commission was not opposed to the application, stating that it was totally relying on the court as to what to do upon the expiration of Obi’s tenure in March next year.
He said even in the timetable released by the commission for the February 6, 2010 election in the state, INEC had made it clear that every action that would be taken concerning the election was subject to the ruling of the court which “we are obliged to obey”.
“We are saying that the court has jurisdiction but if the court says they don’t, it means the application would be struck out, but if it says yes, then it would go ahead to pronounce the reliefs being sought by the appellant. We are not opposed to the application but we are ostensibly asking the court to tell us what to do. We are confused and are here for guidance in the Anambra governorship issue,” Nwaiwu told the court.
In their own submissions, counsel to the first respondent, Chief Udechukwu Nnorom (SAN), and counsel to the Action Congress (AC), Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the application, stating that the implication of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case between Obi and INEC was that the application had become a nullity, adding that since the Supreme Court ruled that there was no vacancy in Anambra governorship seat when the said election was conducted, “it is obvious that Uba’s application is unmeritorious”.
“The implication of that in view of Section 178(2) of the 1999 Constitution is that there could not have been an election in 2007 to fill a vacancy that could only exist in March 2010. You can’t because of a process that ran foul of the constitution, go ahead to grant a right as the applicant is trying to obtain. The applicant is only seeking for a remedy in an already decided case. This has never been envisaged in the rule books,” Nnorom noted.
He further urged the court to dismiss the application as it amounted to trivialising the integrity of the judiciary and advised INEC to initiate an originating summons in a different court if it was still in doubt as to what to do in the planned 2010 gubernatorial election in the state.
Ngige said granting the application would amount to setting dangerous precedence, which would ultimately affect the integrity of the judiciary, stressing that the Certificate of Return been relied upon by the appellant was “purported,” since the election itself was described as “purported by the apex court”.
While calling for the outright dismissal of the application, counsel to Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu, Prince Nwafor Orizu, told the court that the Supreme Court addressed all the issues raised by the appellant when it dismissed his motion to expressly declare that elections be held in Anambra next year and referred him to the high court.
Orizu said: “In the same vein, the Court of Appeal should dismiss this application because this is no longer election matter. The appellant should go to either the state or Federal High Court to argue his case. What is going on here is to say the least disrespect to the Supreme Court.” 
Before announcing the adjournment of the matter, the court had dismissed an application by a set of people from Anambra State seeking to be joined in the case on the ground that they had just attained the voting age of 18 and that granting the application would do constitutional damage to their right to be part of the electoral process in their state.
Also, counsel to Chief Alex Obi-Ogbolu, one of the respondents in the application, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), sent a letter announcing his client’s intention to withdraw from the case, and accordingly all the processes and submissions he filed in the past were struck out.