The Supreme Court on Friday sacked senators representing Anambra South, Andy Uba, and his Anambra North counterpart, Stella Oduah, as well as other state and National Assembly legislators elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The apex court, in its judgement, affirmed as null and void a caretaker committee, headed by Col. Augustine Akobundo (retd.), and its list, nominating Oduah and Uba, as well as the rest of PDP state and federal legislators from Anambra State to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the party’s candidates for the 2015 general elections.
A five-man panel of the apex court, led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, unanimously affirmed an earlier verdict delivered by Justice Evoh Chukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja on December 15, 2014, which had affirmed the Ejike Oguebego-led executive committee of the party, along with the primaries conducted by it, and its list of candidates that emerged from the exercise.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had earlier set aside the Federal High Court judgement and affirmed the Andy Uba-faction of the state executive committee.
But Oguebego and another member of his state executive committee, Chuks Okoye, had appealed against the judgement of the Court of Appeal.
The appellants joined the PDP, INEC and another member of the party in the state, Chukwudi Okasia, as respondents.
Ruling in favour of Oguebego on Friday, Justice John Okoro, who read the lead judgement of the apex court, upturned the verdict of the appeal court on the grounds that its decision was based “on a wrong appreciation of the claim of the appellants before the trial Federal High Court.”
Justice Okor ruled, “Having resolved all the five issues in favour of the appellants, I hold that there is merit in this appeal, which is hereby allowed. The judgement of the Court of Appeal is hereby set aside.
“The order of the Federal High Court I Suit No FHC/PH/CS/2013 now Suit No FHC/AWK/CS/247/2013), recognising the Ejike Oguebego-led Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, Anambra State chapter is still subsisting until it is set aside by another court.
“I hereby award costs of N100, 000 against the first and third respondents in favour of the appellants.”
Earlier, the Court of Appeal had sacked Uche Ekwunife as the senator representing Anambra Central and INEC is set to organise a re-run. Ekwunife was also one of those nominated but the Justice H.A. Ngajiwa of the Federal High Court had earlier in a judgement in the suit, FHC/PH/CS/2013 (now FHC/AWK/CS/247/2013), delivered on September 12, 2013, affirmed Oguebego and members of his team as constituting the authentic executive committee of the PDP in Anambra State.
The judge had refused the prayer by the plaintiffs asking the court to recognise a former state chairman of the party, Ken Emekayi, and some others as the authentic PDP EXCO in Anambra State.
But in defiance to the order made by Justice Ngajiwa, directing INEC and the PDP to only “recognise and deal” with only the Oguebego-led EXCO, the PDP went ahead to set up a caretaker committee, which organised primaries that submitted the list containing the names of Uba and Oduah and the rest of the legislators as its candidates.
However, on their part, Oguebego and Okoye initiated a fresh suit before Justice Chukwu, which culminated in a judgement, which among others, restrained the PDP and INEC from recognising the list of candidates which emerged from the primaries organised by the Akobundo-led caretaker committee.
The judgement of the Federal High Court affirmed by the Supreme Court on Friday had read in part, “That the second defendant (INEC), its agents, servants, privies, assigns, officials, whatsoever name they may be called, are restrained from accepting or receiving any delegate list or nominated candidates that may emerge from the congresses or primaries conducted by the caretaker committee set up by the first defendant for the Peoples Democratic Party, Anambra State chapter except those that emanate from the plaintiffs.
“That the first defendant the Peoples Democratic Party by the purported appointment of a caretaker committee to oversee, run the affairs and conduct elections for the Peoples Democratic Party, Anambra State chapter is in flagrant disobedience and contempt of the Order of this Honourable court made by Honourable Justice E.S Chukwu on the 10th day of October, 2014 and re-affirmed on the 24th in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS680/2014 – Ken Emekayi Vs. Peoples Democratic Party and others.”
Speaking after the Supreme Court judgement on Friday, lawyers representing Oguebego and his EXCO, Mr. Chris Uche, said, “The Supreme Court’s judgement has effectively restored the list of candidates upheld by the Federal High Court.”
His view was corroborated in a separate interview by INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Hassan Liman (SAN), who said he would advise his “client to substitute the list of the PDP legislators with the list upheld by the Federal High Court.”
Liman said it was unnecessary to conduct fresh elections.