April 19, 2023

Imo Reps: Group faults exparte order stopping collation, declaration of result

Mbaise New Yam festival

*Write NJC to punish erring judicial officer

By Joseph Erunke

ABUJA –A civil society group has faulted a court order suspending the collation and subsequent declaration of the result of election into the Isu/Njaba/Nkwerre/Nwangele Federal Constituency of Imo State.

The Imo State High Court had granted an exparte order restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from concluding the election.

Recall that the court presided by Justice B.C Iheka, had in a Suit marked HOW/274/2023, filed by the APC candidate for the federal constituency,Barr. Harrison Nwadike against Prof. Mrs. Roseta Okechukwu, the Returning Officer for the election, held that, “Until the supplementary Election for the entire 133 Polling Units in the 11 Wards of Njaba Local Government Area is conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the Defendant, or any other person, whomsoever and howsoever, acting in her stead be and is hereby restrained from announcing or declaring the result of the 2023 Isu/Njaba/Nkwerre/Nwangele Federal Constituency election, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice in this case”.

The group, Forum for Accountability and Good Leadership , addressing  a press conference on Wednesday,in Abuja, faulted the order, saying the state high court lacks jurisdiction to act on the matter.

Besides,it argued that INEC being a proper party was not joined in the suit, yet the judge restrained INEC from completing the process.

To this end,the group hinted that it had written a petition to the National Judicial Council to look into the actions of the judge.

Tochukwu Ohazuruike, the Focal Person of the group, speaking at the event, said the judge knew he was without jurisdiction when he made the order. 

Ohazuruike further alleged that the prayers of the plaintiff in the Writ of Summons were also the prayers granted by the court exparte, saying the implication was that without hearing the defendant or any other person who was interested in the case including the PDP candidate who had filed for joinder, the court determined the prayers of the plaintiff.

The group faulted the action of state’s Chief Judge for assigning the case to a judge who she knew was not going to be available having been sworn in as a member of Election Petition Tribunal.

The group recalled that sometime in July 2021, Justice Iheka also in very controversial circumstances declared one Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji as the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance in Anambra State even while sitting in Imo State High Court. 

It claimed that attempts to get copies of the Certified True Copies of documents in the case also revealed that the file could not be accounted for. 

According to the organisation,while the judge had claimed that he had returned the file to the Office of the Chief Judge for reassignment to another judge, the Office of the Chief Judge did not have record of the file being returned to them and the clerk to justice could not explain where the file was.

The group appealed to the NJC to ensure that justice was done to serve as a deterrent for other desperate politicians and judicial officers from flagrantly violating the nation’s electoral laws and processes.