Anambra election tribunal: Ngige wins round one
Former governor of Anambra State and Standard Bearer of the Action Congress (AC) in the February 6, 2010 governorship election in the state, Dr. Chris Ngige yesterday won the first round in his bid to nullify the election of Governor Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Ngige’s victory followed the ruling of the Justice Pius Damulak-led Tribunal in which it turned down the application of Obi to strike out Ngige’s petition.
Obi, however, had his own victory in another petition against him by the United Nigerian Peoples Party (UNPP) candidate, Dr. Okoli Christian Nwachukwu when the tribunal ruled that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the major prayer in his petition.
The ruling of the Tribunal in the case of Ngige and Obi was on a preliminary objection filed by Obi in which he asked for three reliefs, one; to strike out the entire petition on the ground that the petitioner (Ngige) cannot ask for a run-off election and nullification of the election at the same time (cannot probate and reprobate). Two; that the petitioner made allegations against presiding officers in polling stations where people were not registered but results were generated and three; that the petitioner made allegations against the chairman of APGA in Nnewi South who was arrested by the police for being in possession of fake voters’ card and a laptop for printing ofvoters cards.
In its ruling read by Justice M. A Akoja, the tribunal after considering all the arguments of the counsels in the matter held that the petitioner (Ngige) can claim in the alternative.
It ruled that the petitioner can ask that Ngige and Obi should go for a second election and if the tribunal disagreed with the petitioner, the election could be nullified on the allegations of non-compliance with the provisions of the electoral act namely: flawed voters register and disenfranchisement of about 86 per cent of the electorate in Anambra State as prayed by the petitioner.
The tribunal cited other decisions of the court in election matters and in civil matters which allowed the plaintiff or a petitioner to claim in the alternative and with that dismissed the objection of the respondent (Obi) on issue one.
On issue two, the tribunal agreed with the petitioner that joining of presiding officers in respect of zero registration recorded in many polling booths in Anambra State was not necessary because it wasn’t the presiding officers that made zero registration but INEC and that since they were employees of INEC, there was no need to join them and that the petitioner’s allegations were clearly against INEC and the Resident Electoral Commissioner, hence the respondent’s response on issue two failed.
On issue three which was in respect of the allegation against the Nnewi South Chairman of APGA, Mr. Okwudiba, the tribunal held that since the matter was a criminal case that involved the Nigerian Police, that the issue was not necessary in the determination of the petition as the police could handle the matter while the petition could go on, on other issues the petitioner had raised. It thereby struck out the paragraph from the petition, leaving the rest, about 36 paragraphs of the petition intact.
In the other ruling of the tribunal in the petition of the UNPP candidate which is seeking the nullification of Obi’s election on the grounds that the February 6, 2010 election that produced him was held in disobedience to a Federal High Court judgment on February 4, 2010 which held that INEC at present was improperly constituted, hence, unlawful to conduct any election in Nigeria, the tribunal held that the petitioner has the locus standi to petition to the tribunal being a candidate in the said election, just as it held that the petitioner pay all the necessary fee as processed by the registry against the argument of the respondent.
The Tribunal, however, agreed with the respondent (Obi) that the issue of the High Court judgment was a pre-election matter, hence not in the tribunal’s jurisdiction to handle.
The Tribunal said, “We agree with the learned SAN (counsel to Obi) on issue three that the composition of INEC being a pre-election matter, the tribunal is not vested with power to adjudicate on it by virtue of section 1 (45) of the Electoral Act of 2006.
“We also hold that the contention or claim of the petitioner that the first respondent and its agents were in encumbered legally from conducting the governorship election in Anambra State on 6th February 2010 by virtue of the judgement of the Hon. Justice Mohammed Iliman of the Federal High Court in suit no. …, Action Congress against Prof. Iwu and others, on 4th day of February, 2010 is totally incorrect and alien to the provisions of Section 285 (2) of 1999 constitution, Section 145(1) of the Electoral Act 2006 as issue of contention is not submersible under those laws and not justifiable in the tribunal.
“We have no jurisdiction to deal with the right and obligation of anyone mentioned in the said judgement. It is not part of our jurisdiction to determine whether or not any election was conducted in breach or disobedience of any judgement”.
Meanwhile, INEC has reported full compliance to the order of the court by making provision of the electoral materials used in conducting the election to Ngige and the Action Congress (AC).
Counsel to INEC Nnodu (SAN) reported to the Tribunal yesterday that INEC has fully complied with the orders of the court.
Confirming INEC compliance, Ngige’s lawyer, Chief Duru Iheoma however complained that they have serious with the quality of documents given to them by INEC.
He said “The voters’ register are in colour and their being in colour is for a purpose, a purpose that is relevant to us and to the respondents but we are disappointed that we were given ordinary black and white products. A good number of them are faint and cannot be read. I make bold to say that we were charged heavily and we paid over a Million Naira and we expected something better.”
He however applied to withdraw his motion which sought to strike out INEC replies in the petition and the motion was duly struck out by the court.