Abuja — The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Monday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a re-run election for Anambra Central senatorial district within 90 days.
Delivering judgment in the appeal, the three-member panel of the Appeal Court headed by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe Wilson, gave the order in a judgment delivered on a suit brought by the All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA and its candidate, Chief Victor Umeh, challenging the February 29, 2017, judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, wherein the trial judge, Justice Anwuli Chikere, ordered the inclusion of Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Senator Uche Ekwenife in the scheduled Anambra Central senatorial re-run poll.
Justice Akomolafe Wilson, who led a three-man panel of the Appeal Court dismissed PDP's preliminary objections on the issue of the appellants' locus standi and the court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The Anambra Central senatorial seat at upper chamber of the National Assembly has been vacant following the nullification of Senator Uche Ekwenife's election.
The Court of Appeal Division in Enugu had in July 2015 voided Ekwenife's election for not being "the product of a valid primary and was therefore not duly and legitimately nominated."
But the appellate court held that the appellants' suit was not academic as there were live issues in the appeal.
In determining the main crux of the appeal, the appellate court held: "The rationale therefore, is correct as submitted by the appellants that the principle of guiding who can participate in a court ordered re-run election following the nullification of general election has been established in Labour Party vs. INEC, and it remains the law.
"Where a court nullifies an election and orders a fresh election, a political party which participated in the annulled election at whose instance the election was nullified cannot field a new candidate to contest in the fresh election. This is because the fresh election does not entail an entirely new process; rather it takes the place of the annulled election, because the period of nomination of candidates has lapsed."
Furthermore, Justice Akomolafe held that it was not the case of the 1st respondent (PDP) at the trial court that it be allowed to substitute a candidate for Ekwenife who had defected from the PDP, but for the "erroneous notion that the court-ordered election scheduled by INEC for March 5, 2016, entailed an entirely new process whereby it is entitled to conduct fresh primaries and nominate a new candidate."
The judge said it was unfortunate that the trial judge fell into a grave error by predicating her judgment on the grounds that Ekwenife defected from the PDP.
"On the whole, having resolved the main issue in this appeal in favour of the appellant, this appeal is meritorious and it is allowed. The decision of the trial Federal High Court delivered on February 29, 2016, is hereby set aside.
"INEC, the 2nd respondent in the suit, is ordered to conduct a fresh election in Anambra senatorial district within 90 days from today with the participation of the appellants (Chief Victor Umeh and APGA).
"The 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th respondents shall pay the sum of N50,000 each to the appellants," the Appeal Court held.