Umeh floors Ekwunife over Anambra central senatorial dispute

Senator Uche Ekwunife

The Supreme Court yesterday dismissed an appeal filed by Senator Uche Ekwunife challenging the cancellation of her election to represent Anambra Central Senatorial District.

The Anambra State Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal Division in Awka had initially nullified the election that produced Ekwunife as senator representing the district in the March 2015 general elections and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election for the district.

But not satisfied with the decisions at the lower and appellate courts, Ekwunife approached the apex court, asking it set aside the verdicts.

However, in its judgment, the five-man panel, headed by Justice Tanko Mohammed, held that it had no jurisdiction to entertain matters emanating from the conduct of National Assembly elections.

In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Amina Augie, the court affirmed the position of Chief Victor Umeh of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), who was Ekwunife’s challenger at the lower courts.

Justice Augie held that the terminal point of all disputes over National Assembly polls is the Court of Appeal, noting that the apex court lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine Ekwunife’s appeal in respect of the dispute.

“Looking closely at the wordings of Section 246 (3), it is clear that the decision of the Court of Appeal is final.

“This decision, therefore, has no business climbing or driving to this court for adjudication, because this court is completely bereft of jurisdiction to entertain and determine any such appeal from the lower court.

“Once the court below delivers its judgment on a National Assembly Election Petition Appeal, the judgment is final and this court has no jurisdiction to hear any appeal related to that, no matter how cleverly framed,” Justice Augie said.

She further declared that Umeh’s preliminary objections to Ekwunife’s appeal succeeded on the ground that “this court lacks jurisdiction. This appeal is struck out.”

Counsel to Ekwunife, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), while moving the appeal, had urged the apex court to restate Ekwunife to her seat in the senate.

He urged the court to hold that the decision of the election tribunal amounted to a nullity because the tribunal and Court of Appeal had dealt with issues of nomination and sponsorship, which they had no jurisdiction to determine.

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