By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, nullified the participation of the All Progressive Congress, APC, and its candidate, Andy Uba, in the last governorship election in Anambra State.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel of Justices, held that Uba did not emerge through a valid primary election.
It held that that the purported governorship primary election that produced Uba, was conducted in breach of guidelines that was set by the APC.
Consequently, the Supreme Court panel affirmed the concurrent judgements of both the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which had earlier invalidated APC’s participation in the Anambra state gubernatorial election that held on November 6, 2021.
It dismissed the two appeals marked SC/CV/240/2022 and SC/CV/241/2022, which were lodged by both Uba and the APC.
It will be recalled that the appellate court in Abuja had in a verdict it delivered on February 23, said it found no reason to set-aside the high court judgement that disqualified Uba and the APC.
A three-man panel of the court led by Justice Danlami Zenchi, dismissed the two appeals, even as it affirmed the judgement that was delivered against the Appellants on December 20, 2021, by the high court.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the high court had maintained that the primary election that saw Uba emerging as flag bearer of the APC in the election, was done in substantial breach of both the electoral guidelines for the conduct of governorship primary election, as well as the party’s Constitution.
He held that the APC, having failed to comply with the law in the conduct of its primary, was therefore bereft of any valid candidate for the gubernatorial contest.
The judgement followed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/648/2021, which was brought before the court by an aggrieved APC governorship aspirant in the state, Mr. George Moghalu.
The Plaintiff had alleged that the party had in violation of its constitution and guidelines, handpicked Senator Uba, in a kangaroo primary election he said was conducted around 6pm on June 26, 2021.
Moghalu, who was among 14 aspirants that purchased forms to contest the Anambra governorship election on the platform of the APC, told the court that the said process that produced Uba, took place after all other aspirants and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had left the venue.
He accused the party of acting in breach of mandatory provision of Article 18 of its guidelines, which he said stipulated that accreditation for such primary election must start by 8am and end by 2pm.
He urged the court to nullify the APC primary election and order a fresh one.
The Plaintiff, among other things, urged the court to compel INEC to expunge the name of both Uba and the APC from the list of names of political parties and candidates cleared to participate in the governorship election.
He prayed the court to declare that, by virtue of the APC’s alleged non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 and the party’s regulations and guidelines in the conduct of its primary in Anambra State, Uba “is not a candidate at the said 6th November 2021 gubernatorial election or at any subsequent postponement.”
Moghalu applied for a declaration of the court that the APC was bound to comply with all the relevant legal provisions in the conduct of its primary election after having demanded and received N22.5million from him and other 13 aspirants.
Besides, he demanded a refund of the N22.5million he paid for the expression of interest and nomination forms, the Plaintiff, prayed the court to restrain Uba from holding himself out or parading himself as the candidate of the APC in the said election.
In his judgement, Justice Ekwo, aside from invalidating Uba’s candidacy, ordered APC to refund to the Plaintiff, money he paid to obtain both his nomination and expression of interest forms.
He held that the Plaintiff successfully proved his case to warrant the nullification of the primary election.
The court stressed that since the primary election was conducted illegally and in breach of the law, the APC, could therefore not be a beneficiary of the substantive governorship election that was declared in favour of the candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Prof. Charles Soludo.
It declared that the APC had no candidate in the Anambra governorship election.
“The 2nd defendant (INEC) is compelled to delist the name of the 1st defendant and 3rd defendant from the November 6, Anambra governorship election,” Justice Ekwo ordered.