Anambra Senatorial Tussle: We’re Still Studying Order on Okonkwo, Says INEC

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wednesday said it was still studying the judgment ordering it to issue Certificate of Return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Obiora Okonkwo, who the court declared as the authentic candidate of the party for Anambra Central senatorial district.

Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja had in a judgment delivered on a pre-election matter on December 13, declared Okonkwo as the rightfully elected candidate of the PDP in the primary election held in 2014.
The court consequently ordered INEC to immediately issue Obiora with the Certificate of Return being the rightful candidate of the Anambra Central senatorial election won by the PDP in 2015.

An official of INEC who made the disclosure while addressing a crowd of protesters who had besieged the headquarters of the electoral umpire in Abuja, assured the protesters of INEC’s readiness to obey the laws of the land.

The official, an acting Director in charge of security, Richard Awolola, told the protesters that the commission is following the normal process and would get back to them once they are done, and commended the group for the orderly and peaceful manner they have been conducting the protest.

He asked a leader of the group to provide the letter requesting INEC to issue the Certificate of Return in line with the court’s directive for speedy action.

The protesters with placards various inscription, such as INEC obey court order, release Certificate of Return to Obiara, said they were at the INEC headquarters to prevail on the commission to release certificate of return to Obiora, so that he can be sworn in by the National Assembly to represent the people of Anambra Central senatorial district, which according to them has been suffering since the sacking of Senator Uche Ekwunife who was declared winner of the 2015 National Assembly election.

The Court of Appeal in Enugu had in 2015 voided Ekwunife election on the grounds that she was not a product of a valid election and thereby declared a seat at the National Assembly vacant.

A spokesman of the protesters, Azubuike, said: “We are here to appeal to INEC to issue certificate of return to Obiora whom the court declared as the right person to represent Anambra Central at the National Assembly.
“He needs the certificate to go to the National Assembly to be sworn in as senator representing Anambra Central. We have been suffering because of lack of representation at the Senate.

“We believe INEC is a law abiding institution and they will do the right thing,” he said.
He disclosed that counsel to Obiora had last Tuesday submitted a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgment along with a letter requesting the commission to release the Certificate of Return to Obiora, but that the commission is yet to carry out the order, hence their decision to embark on a peaceful protest.

Justice John Tsoho of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court on December 13, ordered the immediate swearing-in of Dr. Obiora Okonkwo of the PDP, as senator representing Anambra Central senatorial district.
He also ordered the Senate President to immediately inaugurate Oknokwo to fill the vacant Anambra Central senatorial seat.

Delivering judgment in a suit filed by the plaintiff against the PDP and three others, the judge held that the plaintiff was validly nominated by the PDP in its primary election of December 2014 for the senatorial district.
Consequently, Justice Tsoho, ordered that the Certificate of Return earlier issued to Ekwunife be withdrawn and that a fresh one be issued to the plaintiff by INEC.

It would be recalled that Okonkwo had instituted a court action against the PDP, its former National Chairman, Adamu Muazu, INEC and Ekwunife, challenging the emergence of Ekwunife as PDP candidate for the 2015 National Assembly election.

However in the course of trial, all the four defendants withdrew their processes against the case and agreed to submit themselves to the judgment of the court.

The judge agreed with the submission of the plaintiff’s counsel, that in view of the withdrawal of all defendants, the court was at liberty to enter judgment in favour of the plaintiff.

Justice Tsoho said with the withdrawal of the defendants and their consent to abide by his judgment, the plaintiff has emerged as the lawful candidate of PDP in the March 28, 2015 National Assembly election for Anambra Central senatorial district.