Bad day for senators, reps at Appeal Court - Uju Ayalogu's Blog for News, Reviews, Articles and More

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Friday, 11 December 2015

Bad day for senators, reps at Appeal Court

Bad day for senators, reps at Appeal Court

 Some lawmakers who manipulated their way into the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly are being shown the exit by the Court of Appeal. Eric Ikhilae and Okodili Ndidi report that five lawmakers, whose elections were voided yesterday, are to run again in Rivers and Imo states.

SOME  lawmakers  got a piece of bad news yesterday. Two senators and two members of the House of Representatives lost their seats at the Appeal Court. All the affected lawmakers won on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The court, which sat in Owerri, the Imo State capital and Abuja, the Federal Capital City (FCT), voided the Certificates of Return given to senators Mao Ohuabunwa (Abia North Senatorial District) and George Thompsom Sekibo (Rivers East Senatorial District). The appellate court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct rerun elections in the two senatorial zones.

The Senatorial Election Petitions’ Tribunals in Imo and Rivers states had upheld the elections of Ohuanbunwa and Sekibo but unsatisfied with the verdicts, their challengers, Orji Uzor Kalu of the Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA) and Andrew Ibonule Uchendu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) approached the appellate court.

Also to undergo bye-elections in their federal constituencies are two PDP representatives from Rivers State. The duo, whose elections were annulled are Kingsley Ogundu Chindah and Blessing Nsiegbe, representing Obio/Akpo and Port-Harcourt II respectively. APC’s Anthony Chinedu Okocha and Collins Owhondah had appealed the lower tribunals’ ruling in their petition against the declaration of Chindah and Nsiegbe as winners of the House of Representatives election on March 28.

In Owerri

Deciding the appeal filed by Kalu, a former Imo State governor, the Court of Appeal set aside the judgment of the lower tribunal and ordered for a fresh election in the Abia North Senatorial District.

In the judgment delivered by Justice I G Mbaba,  the court held that there were certain documents the lower tribunal should have relied upon to decide the case which were not presented and where presented, were not stamped.

The presiding judge noted that the election was marred by irregularities to the extent of result mutilation. With the mutilated result compromising the overall outcome, the court held that to ensure a credible and transparent election, all the parties in the election should go back to the field for a fresh poll. He therefore ordered for a rerun election within the next 90 days.

Ndubuisi Nwosu, a lawyer from the K.C Nwufor (SAN) chambers and counsel to the petitioner, noted that the Appeal Court largely based its decision on the non-tendering of some critical documents and cases of irregularities to nullify the election.

In his reaction, Ohuabunwa’s counsel, Mike Onyeka, expressed displeasure and disappointment with the judgment. He said: “As a person, I do not agree with the conclusion of the court here today (yesterday) but as a lawyer, I am bound by the judgment. If there was another opportunity to contest this judgment, I would have done it. In any case, this is not the worst case scenario as all the parties involved would have to go back.”

In Abuja

Nullifying Sekibo’s election in an appeal by Uchendu and the APC, the Court of Appeal upturned the decision of the Rivers State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal that sat in the FCT.

The lower tribunal, chaired by Justice Muazu Pindiga, had held that the APC candidate failed to prove his case that election did not hold as claimed by the defendants including the electoral umpire and the PDP.

But the appellate court yesterday held that it was for the respondents – Sekibo, the PDP INEC – who claimed that election actually held, to lead evidence to prove that election held as required under the Electoral Act.

The court, in the appeal marked: CA/A/EPT/626/2015, ordered that fresh election be held in the senatorial district.

Sekibo led two other senators from Rivers State to present a petition before the Senate, during the ministerial screening, opposing the nomination of the ex-governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.  The former governor was eventually screened and cleared. He has been handed the Ministry of Transportation portfolio by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The elections of Chindah and Nsiegbe were also voided by the appellate court.

The court upheld the appeals marked: CA/A/EPT/624/2015 and CA/A/EPT/625, filed by Okocha and Owhondah of the APC.

In the three judgments, the Justice Ali Gumel-led three man panel, upheld the appeal filed for the appellants by their lawyer, B. E. I. Nwofor (SAN).

Others know fate today

As at 8pm last night, the court was yet to deliver three other House of Representatives judgments scheduled to be delivered yesterday.

They include: the appeals filed by Ogbonna Nwuke against Jerome Amadi Eke (Etche/Omuonu Federal Constituency); Maureen Tamuno against Gogo Bright Tamuno (Okrika/Ogubolu) and Frank Chudi Wihioka against Boniface Emerengwa (Ikwere/Emuoha). All three appellants in the three appeals are of the APC and the respondents are of the PDP.

Barring the unforeseen, the court will today rule in the appeal marked: CA/A/EPT/627/2015, by Igochukwu Auma of the APC and PDP’s Ken Chikere in respect of the election in Port-Harcourt I Federal Constituency.

Ohunabunwa and Sekibo joined the club of former Senate President David Bonaventure Mark (Benue South Senatorial District) and Senator Bashir Marafa (Taraba Central Senatorial District). Unlike Mark, who was asked by the Court of Appeal to participate in a rerun election within 90 days, the court ruled that Marafa’s Certificate of Return be transferred to his challenger as the winner of the March 28 poll.

The Makurdi Division of the court voided Mark’s election last week and ordered INEC to conduct fresh election in the Benue South Senatorial District within 90 days.

Mark’s victory at the March 28 senatorial election was challenged by Daniel Onjeh of the APC, who petitioned the Benue State National Assembly Election Petitions’ Tribunal and asked for the cancellation of the election and an order to conduct fresh election in the district.

Although the Justice Mosunmola Dipeolu-led panel dismissed Onjeh’s petition on October 7   on the ground that the evidence he tendered was documentary hearsay, he approached the higher court for judicial remedy.

On September 30, the National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal in Yola, the Taraba State capital, nullified Marafa’s election as the senator representing Taraba Central Senatorial District.

The court ordered INEC to issue Certificate of Return to the APC candidate, Yusuf Abubakar, who the court said proved his appeal beyond reasonable doubt.

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