Not Yet Sitting Pretty in the Red Chamber

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Peoples Party representing Anambra South may not be in a comfortable position in the senate, following court orders sacking him as a senator and reconfirming Dr. Obinna Uzoh of the Peoples Democratic Party, as the lawful occupant of the seat

It is seven months since the inauguration of the Ninth Senate, yet a few senators still have their fate hanging in the balance. In a small number of senatorial districts, there are contentions over the ultimate winner! A couple of cases are in court challenging the legitimacy of the mandate of the senator who has been sworn-in. This situation is germane in Anambra South senatorial district, where the incumbent, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) cannot yet say that he is sitting pretty in the Red Chamber, as the last has not been heard in the tussle for the Anambra South senatorial district.

 

His challenger, Dr. Obinna Uzoh of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is brandishing a recent Abuja Federal High Court judgement that sacked Ifeanyi Ubah as senator representing Anambra South on grounds that he forged the National Examination Council (NECO) school certificate he tendered to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Before the ink could dry on the paper on which the verdict was pronounced, NECO changed its tune. The examination body affirmed to the leadership of the YPP that in 2003, it indeed issued the certificate flaunted by Ubah.

Instead of giving some of kind of comfort to Ubah, NECO’s affirmation has further thrown an air of

confusion around Ubah’s case with the discovery of many contradictions. A cursory attempt to verify the certificate reveals that the serial numbers on the two certificates do not match.

The certificate which Ifeanyi Ubah had submitted to INEC and the one NECO has validated shows that the certificates are different. The serial numbers are different. The initial certificate Ifeanyi Ubah submitted to INEC has serial no 303865920 while the NECO certified copy is 303565920. Curiously, the certificates have different signatures, logos and even font. Many who have taken keen interest in this case are now wondering how the same certificate would have two different serial numbers, logo, font and signature. If we take the NECO certificate released by the examination body as Ifeanyi Ubah’s certificate, then the initial one he submitted to INEC was indeed forged as declared by the Abuja High Court.

Accusing fingers have been pointed in different directions, including the possibility of a collusion with INEC, but that has not been confirmed.

Others blamed the defeated senatorial candidates of the PDP and other political parties who have conspired to deny Uzoh his rightful place in the senate. The nomination contest of the PDP had become really messy and Uzoh may be dealing with enemies within his own political party.

Efforts to reach Ifeanyi Ubah to comment on this controversy have been unsuccessful. On his part Dr. Obinna Uzoh who the court has ordered to be sworn in as the senator representing Anambra South Senatorial district declined comment on the issue since the case was likely to go before the Appeal Court. Ifeanyi Ubah has vowed to approach an Appellate Court to set aside the judgment of the High Court based on the supposed validation of his certificate by NECO.

The Anambra South Senatorial District of Anambra State was agog on January 17, as an Abuja Federal High Court, Kubwa, presided over by Justice Bello Kawu, reaffirmed its earlier order sacking Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Peoples Party (YPP) as the senator representing Anambra South.

The judge, Justice Bello Kawu, in a ruling, had declined Senator Ubah’s request to set aside the earlier order issued in a judgment delivered by the court on April 11, 2019. The judge had, in the earlier judgment, sacked Ubah for allegedly submitting a forged National Examination Council certificate to contest the February 23, 2019 senatorial election. The fact that Ifeanyi Ubah purportedly emerged as YPP candidate without the party conducting primaries as required by law formed another plank to upturn the validity of the senator’s election.

The judge had also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Ubah and directed that a fresh one be issued to Dr. Obinna Uzoh of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), established as the rightful owner of the senatorial mandate.

But Senator Ifeanyi Ubah had faulted the judgement on several grounds claiming that the FCT High Court lacked both “territorial and adjudication jurisdictions” to entertain a matter that arose from Anambra South senatorial election primaries and also was a post-election matter already settled at the electoral tribunal and the Court of Appeal that gave him victory against Chief Chris Uba of the PDP.

On the damaging criminal allegation that his NECO certificate was forged, Ubah said the court did not summon any staff of NECO, or any other appropriate authority confirming his NECO certificate as fake, hence “there was no proof beyond reasonable doubt on the allegation of falsification of NECO certificate. But Senator Ubah’s claims cut little ice and consequently found no traction with the court as it dismissed all of them.

Recent reports that NECO had affirmed the authenticity of the Ubah’s certificate has apparently worsened the sacked senator’s quandary by drawing the attention of close observers of the controversy to fundamental disparities in the certificates claimed to have been issued by the same body for the same candidate and same examination.

A perusal of the two certificates reveals that NECO or some interest is trying to assist the business mogul to claim what does not belong to him. The certified copy presented and confirmed by INEC has the serial number; 303865920(note, 3038), while the copy NECO just confirmed as Ifeanyi Ubah’s approved certificate comes with a serial number; 303565920 (note, 3035).

A comparison of these two documents glaringly shows differences in signatures, stamp, logo, typeset font and so on. This suggests that NECO’s supposed affirmation of Ubah’s certificate has further proved the forgery and affirmed the judgment of the court that the (former) senator submitted a fake NECO certificate to INEC.

Many are puzzled at how the same certificate would bear two different serial numbers, logo, font and signature. More damagingly, if the NECO certificate released by the examination body as Ifeanyi Ubah’s certificate was accepted, then the initial one he submitted to INEC was indeed forged as declared by the Abuja High Court.

Dr. Obinna Uzoh declined comments on the issue. According to him, commenting was unnecessary since the case was likely to go before the Appeal Court.

In light of the glaring contradictions, it is unclear what course Ubah intends to navigate and clear the flaws in the result and more so NECO. Although Ubah has vowed to approach an Appellate Court to set aside the judgment of the High Court based on the supposed, now even more controversial validation of his certificate by NECO.

Many observers suggest Ubah is just trying to buy time after he had been sacked by Honourable Justice Bello Kawu of the Abuja Federal High Court. But clearly, it is within his rights to seek adjudication at the appellate court if he believes he has a strong case. The converse position would be to throw in the towel and return to the business terrain.

It could be recalled that Honourable Justice Bello Kawu, on January 17, 2020, discharged his prior Ex-Parte Order suspending the execution of his Judgment in Suit No. CV/3044/2018. The claimant in the Suit filed the Pre-election matter challenging the nomination of the 1st Defendant, Ifeanyi Ubah, by the 2nd Defendant, YPP, as the candidate of the YPP, for the Anambra South Senatorial District Election.

The claimant duly served the three parties he sued (1st to 3rd) defendants as proof of service is contained in the file of the court. Claims that the parties to the suit or any of them, was not aware of the suit could not stand as the Honourable Justice Bello Kawu declared in his judgment that there are proofs of service in the case file.

Dr. Obinna Uzoh, who contested the primary of the PDP but was wrongfully not declared the winner, pursued his case in court and by the judgment of the court, per Justice O.A. Musa of High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, delivered on the 25th March, 2019, he was declared the winner of the PDP primary for Anambra South Senatorial election.

Uzoh then applied to join Suit No: CV/3044/2018 by Motion dated 25/3/2019 and filed on 27/3/2019, which Motion was granted after which a counter affidavit to the originating summons on 2/4/2019 was filed. The reliefs prayed for by Uzoh, in both his application for joinder and counter affidavit were granted in the judgement of 11th April, 2019 in this suit, which judgment directs the INEC and the Senate President to, respectively, issue and acknowledge Certificate of Return to Uzoh, as the Senator for Anambra South senatorial constituency.

Though judgment was delivered in that case on 11th April, 2019, the claimant in the suit had applied for a stay of the Judgment, which application was eventually dismissed on 11th of October, 2019. The court in its ruling held that having given the respective judgment and ruling of 11/4/2019 and 11/10/2019, the court has become functus officio and by Section 285(10) of the 1999 constitution as amended under the 4th Alteration, the motion is statute-barred.

Notwithstanding the foregoing pronouncement which was a subsisting ruling of the court, the 1st Defendant, Ifeanyi Ubah, in further brought an exparte application dated December 3, 2019, staying the execution of judgment; and a further motion dated December 5, 2019, seeking to set aside the Judgment of the court.

Also as about a month later, the 2nd defendant, YPP, brought a further application dated December 20, 2019 and filed on December 30, 2019, also seeking to set aside the judgment of the court.

With the Ex-Parte Order discharged, with an order directing the INEC and the President of the Senate to, respectively, issue and acknowledge Certificate of Return to Uzoh, as the Senator for Anambra South Senatorial Constituency, counsels for Uzoh demanded from INEC, that it is under obligation to issue Uzoh with the Certificate of Return as the Senator for Anambra South as ordered by the Court; and the President of the Senate to swear him is within 48 hours as held by the court

The incontestable position of Nigerian Law on Pre-Election Matters is that they survive and override post-election decisions or declarations, whether of INEC or of the Courts. Accordingly, a person who was wrongly presented to contest an election cannot launder that fundamental defect by being declared the winner of the Election. This much was established in the case of Boko V. Nungwa (2019)5 WRN/SC AT P. 13, RATIO 3.

Where a primary is not held, any state or FCT High Court or Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the case. In the case of Lau v PDP (2018) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1608) 60 at 110-111 and 123, the Supreme Court held thus: “The law has moved on since the 1999 Constitution vested the Federal High Court with exclusive jurisdiction over any action for a declaration or injunction affecting the validity of any executive or administrative action or decision of the Federal Government or any of its agencies, which includes INEC.”

According to the current Electoral Act, “the Federal High Court and the High Court of a State or the Federal Capital Territory have concurrent jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes arising from the conduct of a party’s primaries….”

Meanwhile, pressures up on INEC to issue certificate of return to the PDP’s Obinna Uzoh, following the court ruling that he is the validly elected senator for the Anambra South senatorial district.

Ubah’s lawyers have explained that the discrepancy in serial number is “photocopy effect.” They further averred, “Tell them to swear affidavit to that effect or go to NECO and ask. They said it was forged earlier now NECO said it was ok and they are using INEC photocopied copy to deceive people. Why not go to INEC and get them to certify the one they’re using to deceive people.”

The process for seeking redress is being followed by Uzoh, which has resulted in a number of questions mounting against Ubah. Elections in Anambra often end in catastrophe. Evidently, something is not quite right with the presence of Ubah in the senate, which many see as unrepresentative. Will this end as one of the many strange twists in this political dispensation?

QUOTE:

This situation is germane in Anambra South senatorial district, where the incumbent, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) cannot yet say that he is sitting pretty in the Red Chamber, as the last has not been heard in the tussle for the Anambra South senatorial district. His challenger, Dr. Obinna Uzoh of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is brandishing a recent Abuja Federal High Court judgement that sacked Ifeanyi Ubah as senator representing Anambra South on grounds that he forged the National Examination Council (NECO) school certificate he tendered to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)