Anambra Central Senatorial Poll: NGO Petitions NJC against Justice Chikere

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The fight for the Anambra Central senatorial election between the immediate past National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, and a former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, has taken a new turn with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) petitioning the National Judicial Council (NJC) against Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court in Abuja for ruling that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) be represented in the election.

The NGO demanded the NJC to investigate Justice Chikere so as to restore public confidence in the judiciary.

In the petition dated May 1 and addressed to the NJC Chairman, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who is Nigeria’s Chief Justice, the group described as worrisome Justice Chikere’s order to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on March 1 that the PDP be included in the election which was scheduled to hold on March 5 even after its candidate in the original election, Ekwunife “had been disqualified and she had left the party.”

The ruling disrupted the election meant to find a successor to Mrs. Uche Ekwunife who had last December 7 been ordered by the Court of Appeal to vacate her Senate seat as representative of Anambra Central on the PDP platform because she did not participate in the primaries leading to the emergence of the party’s candidate in last year’s general elections.

Ekwunife was to join the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) last January 8 and unsuccessfully sought its ticket to enable her to return to the Senate.

In the petition to the NJC signed by Uzor Isichei, a Lagos-based lawyer, the Campaign for Judicial Integrity argued that it was patently wrong for Justice Chikere to insist on the PDP’s participation in the rerun election because the law forbids any political party from presenting a fresh candidate unless its candidate in the original election is dead, citing legal provisions as well as pronouncements by both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal over the years.

The NGO regretted that Justice Chikere ignored the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2009 case between the Labour Party and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Court of Appeal ruling in the matter between Tunde Isiaq and Okanlawon Soniyi where the appellate court said: “Where there is a nullification of an election base on qualifications, all candidates that participated in the general election excluding the candidate judged not qualified can participate in the rerun election”.

The organisation also wondered why Chikere’s Federal High Court in Abuja chose to entertain the case for the inclusion of the PDP in the rerun election when the matter could have been handled by the Federal High Court in Awka, Anambra State, or any other state in the South-east geopolitical zone, even though it said that it recognized that all “Federal High Courts are treated as one in Nigeria.”

“In the eyes of the ordinary Nigerian,” noted the NGO, “Justice Chikere merely lent her judicial power to elements in society bent on scuttling a scheduled election.

“It is worrisome that a High Court judge would for whatever reason give a ruling on a matter in complete neglect and disregard of the position of the law as already stated by courts superior to hers in hierarchy”.

The group said as a result of Chikere’s action, the people of Anambra Central would be without a representative in the Senate for long.

INEC had since appealed against Justice Chikere’s judgment.

Though the PDP is yet to adopt a candidate in the election, posters of Obi have long flooded the streets of Awka and other parts of Anambra Central.