Anambra North Senatorial District:
By Chioma Gabriel
The controversy generated byÂ the continued presenceÂ of Senator Joy Emordi at the senate sessions despite the Appeal CourtÂ ruling that her ANPP opponent, Alphousus IgbekeÂ was the real winner of the Anambra North Senatorial district election is smouldering.
Investigations by VanguardÂ revealed that there were discrepancies in the Court of Appeal judgment in Enugu on March 25, 2010 in which Igbeke, the ANPPÂ candidate in the Anambra NorthÂ senatorial election was declared winner by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
Senator Emordi, has gone backÂ to court to seek interpretation in the judgment of theÂ appellate court which had ab initio on February 10 2010, in the case between Jessie Balonwu vs Emordi on the same election ruled that Emordi was the real winner ofÂ the Senatorial election in Anambra North .
Said our source : â€œThe Court had earlier in the case of Jessie Balonwu and Emordi ruled on two major issues in their judgment: the issue of whether there was an election and secondly , on the issueÂ of whether the first respondent (Joy Emordi) was duly elected. This was contained on page four of that judgment.
â€œThe Court after examining other issues which it took one after the other gave answers to the issues. On whether there was an election, they said yes, that there was an election in substantial compliance with the electoral act of 2006.
Then, on the second issue on whether Emordi was properly returned, the court ruled: yes, the court belowÂ was right in upholding the election of the first respondent (Emordi).
â€œNow, once an appeal court has made a return in an election, itÂ canâ€™t make another return on the same election. But the appellate court in this case made another return in favour of Emordiâ€™s opponent in ANPP.
â€œFrom all indications, the appeal court rulings on the case of Emordiâ€™s election, first in her favour and then later in favour of her opponent had become a case of two equities and in law, when there are two equities, the first in time subsists.â€
Further investigations by VanguardÂ revealed that when the two judgments are studied, the appeal court on Emordi vs, Igbeke did not even make reference to the case ofÂ Emordi vs Balonwu despite the fact that two of the judges who ruled on Emordi vs Balonwu were also involved in the case between Emordi vs Igbeke and did not set aside the earlier judgement.
A report on that stated clearly that â€œIn the appeal number CA/E/EPT/73/2008, ( Jessie Balonwu vs Senator Joy Emordi),Â the Appeal Court resolved that there was election in Anambra North Senatorial zone on 28th of April 2007 and Joy Emordi was validly returned by INEC in compliance with the Electoral Act. That was the ruling on February 10 2009 in the unanimous verdict read by Justice A. O. Omage. The ruling agreed with the lower tribunal that there was election in the seven council areas of the senatorial zone.
â€œBut in the second judgment delivered by Justice Olukayode Ariwoola in the case of Igbeke v Emordi on appeal number CA/E/EPT/04/2009; the same Court of Appeal delivered a different verdict pertaining to the same election without making any reference to the earlier verdict in Balonwu v Emordi.
Instead, the same court nullified the results of Onitsha South and Ayemelum local government areas and held that a ceit was satisfied with (pieces) of evidence before it as producedÂ by Igbeke to the effect that elections did not hold in the two local government areas and that Igbeke scored the highest number of votes cast in the remaining five local government areas :Â Ogbaru, Oyi, Onitsha North, Anambra East and Anambra West. The courtÂ ruled on March 25, 2010 that Igbeke won the elections.
â€œWhat remains a puzzleÂ was that two of the judges, Justice Ariwoola and Mohammed L.Â Tsamiya took part in the delivery of the judgment in the case of Balonwu v. Emordi and had concurred in that judgment that Emordi was the winnerâ€.
Some of the lawyers who commented on the case expressed worry that a pattern is being established which if not looked into could create problems in future.
One of the commentators allegedÂ that Igbeke contested election on AD platformÂ in 2003 and when the result was announced, he surfaced and condemned the declaration of the results in favour of the PDP candidate.
â€œDo you know that when we started the tribunal sitting, this man came to the tribunal and claimed that he was the PDP candidate that won the election whereas, he contested under the AD. That was in 2003 and his opponent ofÂ the PDPÂ was so shocked.
He (opponent) brought a poster to prove that Igbeke was the candidate of the AD and not PDP but Igbeke denied and said it was the handiwork ofÂ his enemies. That was in 2003 andÂ his opponent then of the PDP brought a copy of anÂ interview Igbeke granted as the AD candidateÂ but somehow, he manipulated the process and got victory.
â€œIn the case of Emordi, everybody knew that Igbeke contested for primaries for the House of Representatives on the PDP platform and came last. Nobody heard anything aboutÂ him again until he began his claims that he won the Anambra North Senatorial election on the platformÂ ofÂ ANPP which is not a strong party in Anambraâ€.
Our source further alleged that Alphonsus Igbeke was among the very first persons to congratulate Emordi on winning the April 28, 2007 rescheduled election in Anambra North Senatorial district.
â€œHe congratulated Emordi on the morning of the declaration of the results where sheÂ was declared winnerâ€.
The Anambra North senatorial district election was rescheduled severally before it finally held on April 28th 2007.
Following that declaration, our source recalledÂ that Igbeke first went to the Elections Petitions Tribunal to challenge the result pointing out that it was a tug of way at the Tribunal where Igbeke presented what the judges referred to as â€˜oven bakedâ€™ resulted sheets.
He had declared that he was not a thief or anything and had never been wanted or accused of any criminal offence. He had cried out against the senate for not swearing him in after he had presented his certificate of return to the upper legislative chamber, wondering why the senate was acting in the manner they did.
The Chairman, Senate CommitteeÂ on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze (PDP, Enugu North) however was quoted to have said that the status quo would be maintained as the senate has been informed of the conflicting judgment by the Enugu Appeal Court on the same case.
â€œWe have a procedure in the senate. We will not deal with a matter in a way to prompt the outcome of a judicial process. The Appeal Court in Enugu issued two judgments: one, returning Emordi as duly elected and the other by the same court in favour of one Igbeke. Emordi has returned to court to seek interpretation to the two judgments.We will not do anything untilÂ we get a clear indication on which of the judgments they want to take precedence.â€
While some of the lawyers spoken with condemned the senate position on the issue, others agreed that it is necessary to finalise the matter before the senate would take any action.
One of ourÂ sources, a legal practitioner said it is necessary to maintain caution and maintain the status quo because the case is still on-going.
â€œThe senate cannot swear in someone simply because he parades a certificate of return from INEC: The case has to be thoroughly exhausted before any swearing in and the status quo has to maintained while the case is being determined.
â€œTo the best of my knowledge, the case is going to supreme court for interpretation. This case is different because the same court ruled differently on the same issueâ€.
Another sourceÂ however wondered why Igbekeâ€™sÂ certification did not come from SEIC office at Awka but Abuja.
â€œWhat we want the law enforcement agents to do is to investigate the result sheets tendered at the appeal court at Enugu to know if they were the same â€˜oven bakedâ€™ results sheets presented at the tribunal.
â€œIf this is allowed to happened, it will be a new turn in our political development. We donâ€™t know how the INEC at Abuja would certify for him when there is INEC office at Awka that couldÂ have done that. That isÂ where results held in the state get certified.â€
Vanguard was reliably informed that Emordi is waiting for the Supreme Court interpretation. â€œThe mistakeÂ the Court made was going on appeal on a matter that was already decided. Two of the judges who decided on the former also took part in the later without making reference to the former. Igbeke is not fighting Emordi but fighting the system and seeking to infest it with fraud.â€
A teacher of law in a University who also spoke with Vanguard said nothing is being contravened in this case.
â€œWhen you talk about rule of law and when people are following due process in accordance with the law, you should not thwart the process.
In thisÂ case, a sitting Senator who ab initio was cleared and returned in an election by the Court of Appeal in an earlier decision was also in a subsequent decision by the same court clearedÂ an opponent who allegedly said he ran for election.
Can the same court approbate and reprobate? Can the Court speak from two sides of its mouth? Can you say in one breath that there was an election and this person won and in another breathÂ say there was no election in the same seven local government areas that made up that senatorial zone? Itâ€™s so conflicting and there is a manifest misjudgment.
So, when situations like this arise that is unknownÂ we can seek for clarification. It is within the ambit of law and we cannot advise the senate to swear in the opponent. There is no order or injunction compelling the senate to swear him in.
â€œAlready, the other party has sought for interpretation and the senate was properly served. I think it is the onus of the Supreme Court, because the court of Appeal cannot sit in its own matter.
So, let the Supreme Court interpretÂ this matter but until that is done, the status quo must be maintained. The senate cannot swear in Emordiâ€™s opponent and then, later, if the interpretation favours Emordi, she would be sworn in again?â€
But another legal practitioner disagreed with this position saying once a certificate of return has been given, the senate must act on it and swear in the current declared winner.