For the All Progressives Congress (APC), it is a dashed hope in a yet to be conducted rerun central senatorial election in Anambra state. Reason: Its bid to field a fresh candidate for the Anambra Central Senatorial District rerun election has collapsed like a pack of cards.
The court has said that the party and its candidate, Sharon Olive Ikeazor would not participate in the rerun election ordered by the Court of Appeal following the withdrawal of Senator Chris Ngige from the election.
APC and Ikeazor, according to a Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja were caught up with the 2010 Electoral Act which barred substitution of candidate in a court ordered fresh election. The party and Ikeazor had approached the court presided over by Justice A.I. Chikere, asking him to declare that the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) decision to reject substitution of Ngige in the court ordered fresh Anambra Central Senatorial election as unlawful, null and of no effect.
Besides, they asked the court to declare that Ngige’s replacement as nominated by the party for the election was valid and in compliance with the extant laws. Specifically, in an originating summons, Ikeazor and the ruling APC sought the following reliefs among others: *An order setting aside the decision of the defendant as contained in its letter of 29th January, 2016 wherein it rejected the substitution and nomination of the 1st plaintiff (Ikeazor) with the previous candidate of the 2nd plaintiff (APC) upon withdrawal of the 2nd plaintiff’s previous candidate from the fresh election to the Anambra Central Senatorial District.
*An order directing the defendant (INEC) to accept the nomination of the 1st plaintiff as the candidate of the 2nd plaintiff at the forthcoming court ordered fresh election in the Anambra Central Senatorial District of Anambra state where she intends to contest forthwith; and
*An order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC by itself, officers, servants, privies, agents or any other persons, agencies or individuals deriving power, command, authority, instructions or directives from it from acting or relying on or continuing to rely on, act on, implement, give effect to, interfere with or do anything to the prejudice of the plaintiffs based on the decision contained in the defendant’s letter of 29th January, 2016, wherein INEC purportedly rejected the substitution by the 2nd plaintiff and consequently barring the 1st plaintiff from contesting and participating in the election to the Anambra Central Senatorial District.
This, Ikeazor said was ultra vires, saying that despite valid substitution by her party as candidate for the election, INEC had rejected to acknowledge her as validly nominated candidate.
She, however, asked the court to grant her reliefs and restrain INEC from excluding her from participating in the fresh election as Ngige had willingly withdrawn from the race. But INEC, citing judgements arising from the tribunal and the Court of Appeal insisted that Ikeazor and her party were not entitled to participate in the fresh and yet to be conducted Anambra Central Senatorial election.
It said particularly in Isiak.v. Soniyi (2009) All FWLR (pt 498)347 that Ikeazor had been shut out by the Electoral Act 2010, saying where there was a nullification of an election on grounds of non-qualification, candidates in such election excluding candidate adjudged as not qualified would take part in rerun/fresh election as ordered by the court. INEC said: “The nomination of the 1st plaintiff as new candidate of the 2nd plaintiff for the fresh election is inconsistent with the provision of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
The defendant did not disenfranchise the plaintiff but the Electoral Act 2010 did. “The defendant is under no obligation and legal duty to publish the name of the 1st plaintiff for the fresh election ordered by court in respect of Anambra Central Senatorial District.
The decision of the defendant is valid and not contrary to law.” It asked the court to dismissed Ikeazor’s suit as lacking in merit. However, the court presided by Justice Chikere upheld INEC’s request, saying there was no room for fresh candidates in a court ordered fresh elections.
He said: “I have read the originating summons and the affidavit in support. I have also read the counter affidavit in opposition to the originating summons. I have thoroughly perused the written address for and against the originating summons.
The solitary issue in the originating summons is whether the 2nd plaintiff is entitled to nominate a fresh candidate for the fresh election ordered by the Court of Appeal upon the withdrawal of its original candidate from the election. Counsel refers court to Sections 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). The facts of this case are as stated in the affidavit in support of the originating summons and the counter affidavit in opposition.
The time for nomination / withdrawal or substitution of candidates for the court ordered election in Anambra Central Senatorial District had elapsed. As decided by the Court of Appeal in the case of Labour Party Vs INEC (2008) 13 NWLR PT. 1103 PG. 73, there is no room for fresh candidates in a court ordered fresh elections.
The court is bound by the above decision of the Court of Appeal, and adopts same and holds that there is no room for fresh candidates in a court ordered fresh elections. Accordingly, I hold that 2nd plaintiff cannot substitute the 1st plaintiff for the court ordered election, time do so having expired.”