The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared yesterday that despite court order, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will not be allowed to participate in the Anambra central senatorial re-run election billed for Saturday.
INEC noted that apart from the PDP, the other 14 political parties that participated in the senatorial poll during the 2015 general election, including the All Progressives Congress (APC) are qualified to participate.
Addressing journalists in Akwa yesterday, INEC resident electoral commissioner in the state, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, said INEC has already received all the non-sensitive materials from the Abuja national headquarters of the commission and that a total of 7,670 ad-hoc staff had been recruited and given the necessary training for the smooth conduct of the re-run election.
He stated that the sensitive materials would arrive at the state from INEC’s national headquarters in Abuja today and would be distributed tomorrow to the affected local governments.
This is coming just as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Femi Falana, yesterday praised INEC for deciding to proceed with the Anambra central senatorial rerun election despite PDP’s insistence that it should do otherwise.
Falana said the PDP and its candidate, Obiora Okonkwo, were wrong for calling on the electoral umpire to disregard the judgements of the Court of Appeal in favour of the order of a lower court.
He said, “Are you aware that in two separate judgements the Appeal Court ordered INEC to conduct the election within 90 days? Are you not aware? So, which judgment is higher? You understand? Until those judgements of the Court of Appeal are set aside, INEC has to obey them. You get the point?
“So, in the hierarchy of your organisation, are you higher than your editor or managing director? So, if a Court of Appeal, two of them actually, says, ‘go and conduct election’, can a High Court, in defiance of those judgements, set aside the orders of the Court of Appeal? It doesn’t matter whether it is a pre-election matter or not.
“You have to successfully set aside the orders of the Court of Appeal before INEC can do otherwise. I want to believe that the attention of the High Court was not drawn to the orders of the Appeal Court, because a high cannot deliberately ignore the orders of a higher court under our law”.
Also, the state police commissioner, Garba Umar, said that about 4300 policemen have been deployed to man the 1,448 polling units that would be used for the conduct of the election in the seven local government areas that make up the senatorial zone.
The affected local governments are: Awka North, Awka South, Dunukofia, Njikoka, Idemil North, Idemili South and Anaocha.
Umar who also addressed reporters yesterday at the state headquarters of the Police Command in Amawbia said that movement would equally be restricted in the seven local governments.
He warned any group planning to foment trouble during the poll to desist from such anti-democratic action or be prepared to face the wrath of the law.
Okonkwo, INEC, Others Know Fate Tomorrow
Meanwhile, a Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed for tomorrow, ruling on an application seeking to vary the judgment of the court recognising Obiora Okonkwo as the lawful candidate for the Anambra central senatorial district.
Justice John Tsoho had earleir announced that he will deliver ruling on the matter after taking submissions of counsel for and against the motion brought by Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
When the matter came up yesterday, Awomolo informed the court of an application filed on December 21, 2017 requesting the court to vary its consent judgment delivered on December 13, 2017 wherein Okonkwo was declared the lawful candidate for the contested seat.
Justice Tsoho had in the judgment also directed INEC to immediately issue Okonkwo a certificate of return.
But moving the motion yesterday, Awomolo, who noted that counsel in the matter ought to draw the attention of the court to the three judgments of the Court of Appeal, said both the PDP and INEC were part of the processes.
He argued that since the Court of Appeal in all the three judgment ordered for a fresh election to be conducted within 90 days from the date of judgment, the lower court ought to defer to the upper court.
“So, it is brought to the notice of the court that there are judgment of the Appeal Court that says election should be conducted within 90 days; the court should defer to the judgment”, he said.
Awomolo in his submission then urged the court to set aside its decision and not discountenance the decision of a superior court.
Responding to the issue of court hierarchy raised by INEC, Hon SAN, argued that the lower court cannot defer to the upper court since the rule changes when it involves a pre-election matter.
He said the decision of the court was not unlawful in the face of the Appeal Court as the Federal High Court in a judgment delivered by justice Ahmed Mohammed in the same case dismissed the Court of Appeal’s process as unrelated to the pre-election matter.
He added that INEC was yet to appeal the decision, even as he also drew the court attention to a notice of appeal filed at the Supreme Court against the judgement of the Court of Appeal by the PDP as well as an application for stay, adding that based on the appeal the judgment of the upper court cannot be binding.
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