By Ise-Oluwa Ige
ABUJAâ€”A five-member panel of the Supreme Court, yesterday, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to include, with immediate effect, the name of Professor Charles Soludo on the comprehensive list of nominated candidates jostling for election in the February 6, 2010 gubernatorial polls in Anambra State.
The order came less than 24 hours after the Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja, stopped the ex-governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, (Soludo) from canvassing for votes with respect to the gubernatorial election or parade himself anyhow, anywhere, as nominated candidate of the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP, for the polls.
The apex court, which voided, yesterday, the two separate orders (interim and interlocutory) granted by the Abuja Court of Appeal against Soludo on December 4 and 16, 2009 respectively, declared that the injunctions were not only oppressive but were unfair and granted without jurisdiction.
Besides, the apex court, yesterday, issued a separate order directing INEC to accord Soludo â€œall the rights, advantages and privileges available to all the partiesâ€ jostling for the exalted governorship seat in Anambra State.
Oguntade flays A’Court’s ruling
Justice George Oguntade was the presiding justice of the Supreme Court which delivered the ruling yesterday.
He could not hide his revulsion at the orders of the Court of Appeal which stopped Soludo from participating in the polls.
He said the orders were oppressive and issued without jurisdiction.
In a short lead ruling delivered by him, yesterday, in the case, Justice Oguntade said:
â€œI have given consideration to the facts in support of this application and the submission on law by counsel.
â€œThe submission of Mr Taiwo Abbey for the third and fourth respondents is that all the grounds of appeal challenging the exercise of discretion must of necessity be of mixed law and facts are grossly untenable.
â€œThere is no dispute that the first, second, third and fourth respondents have been the plaintiffs before the Abuja High Court. That court declined jurisdiction.
â€œThe first, second, third and fourth respondents, then brought an appeal against the judgment of the high court before the court below.
â€œThe appeal on jurisdiction is yet to be determined. The courtâ€™s below duty as raised by the appellants before it is to determine the issue of jurisdiction.
Orders INEC on Soludo
â€œIt is directed that INEC accords to the appellant (Soludo) and cross-appellant (PDP) all the rights, advantages and privileges available to all the parties in the February 6, 2010 election and that they be not prejudiced in any manner.
â€œThis is without prejudice to whatever judgment or order made or may be subsequently made on the suit filed by the first and second respondents against the appellant (Soludo) and the cross-appellant (PDP),â€ to which they all chorused as the court pleases.
Justice Oguntade went further to explain the purport of his judgment thus:
â€œIn other words, we do not say that any of them has won anything.
â€œAll we have said in totality is that the situation as it was before the first to fourth respondents went to the court should be maintained.
â€œTherefore, it is not a victory for anybody. It is only the balance of the case as it was at the commencement of litigation,â€ he added.
All other four justices also took turn to read their concurring rulings on the issue yesterday.
Soludo, dressed in a white native attire and a red cap to match, could not control his emotions yesterday, dancing, saying his judicial victory was simply divine.
Although he and his supporters did not show their faces when the matter began yesterday morning, they came in their dozens when news filtered that the Supreme Court had taken a radical decision to hear, decide and set aside the two orders which it described as oppressive.
According to Soludo, who appeared in court after judgment was entered in his favour, â€œI think today is a great day. God has spoken. The Supreme Court has spoken and millions of the AnambraÂ people are also speaking and praying.