By David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka
The candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in Anambra Central Senatorial election, Chief Victor Umeh, has said that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was free to hold the rescheduled Anambra Central Senatorial Zone rerun election as an earlier judgment of the Supreme Court had settled the matter.
Umeh who spoke to journalists in Awka in a news briefing, said it became necessary to set the record straight following boastful statements by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige that the election would never hold until all pending cases were exhausted.
Umeh said Ngige in making the statement was being crafty as he knew the position of the law on the matter, and that his boastful speeches showed that he was leading his party into coercing INEC to dump the conduct of the election as he (Umeh) had already gathered from reliable sources.
Â Recall that despite the order of the court for the immediate conduct of the Anambra Central election, the poll has remained unconducted as a result of what has been described as vested interests by some politicians.
Umeh said, â€œIâ€™m surprised to read these audacious statements by Dr. Chris Ngige, where he said the Anambra Central rerun poll cannot hold until all pending cases are cleared. My surprise stems from the fact that I could not fathom under what capacity Ngige was saying categorically that the poll can never take place. He is the Minister of Labour and Employment; he does not work for INEC that is empowered by the constitution to conduct elections.
â€œIâ€™m aware that the INEC has a legal department that is staffed by qualified lawyers, and if there is any matter that will prevent the commission from conducting election, the commission will say so at any point in time. This is not the first time that Ngige has made this claim, but saying the same thing at an APC meeting corroborates all what we have been hearing that APC will do everything to ensure that INEC does not conduct that election.â€
Umeh said there was no legal impediment anymore against the conduct of Anambra Central senatorial election. He said the cases Ngige cited as outstanding could not stop INEC from conducting that election.
â€œThe issue of the eligible candidates who can take part in a court ordered fresh election or rerun election has been permanently settled by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in its judgment in a case between Labour Party versus INEC, whose judgment was delivered on the 13thFebruary 2009.Â
That judgment was an endorsement of judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division on 10th April 2008, to the effect that elections that are ordered by court through nullification do not admit new candidates.
â€œUnfortunately, people like Ngige are pretending not to know this position of the law. As early as January 2016, when PDP and APC purported to be trying to conduct a primary to choose a candidate that will take part in the election, I cried out that the law does not permit such futile exercise, they didnâ€™t want to accept it, and they continued. Today, it is clear because INEC submitted to this decision of the Supreme Court in the conduct of all the fresh election ordered by the Court of Appeal across the country, after the 2015 general electionsâ€, he submitted.
He said all the candidates that were disqualified by the final decision of the Court of Appeal were not allowed to take part in fresh or rerun elections, and that it was like that in all over the country except in Anambra Central election where some vested interests were bent on scuttling the election.
He took a swipe at Ngige who had earlier withdrawn from the rerun poll, citing that he was on a national assignment as a minister, wondering why he did not want to run, but was interested in scuttling the rerun election, even when his party had been disqualified from presenting any other candidate that is not him.
Umeh called on the President Muhammadu Buhari to beware of Ngige, who he accused of never having won an election all his life, but depended on being rigged into office.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission has said that it had not received any directive to conduct the Anambra Central rerun poll, that it will do so once the directive is issued it.
Mr. Thomas Ongele, the new Administrative Secretary of the commission in Anambra stated this in a press briefing to issue directive on the continuous voterâ€™s registration (CVR) which began Thursday.