‘There was no pronouncement that either he or others should vacate their seats’
Following the controversies that trailed last Friday’s ruling of the Supreme Court which sections of the media interpreted to mean the sacking of various lawmakers of Anambra State, excerpts of the judgement obtained weekend indicate that no such ruling or order was given by the apex court.
According to the certified true copy of the judgement, the Court in a ruling by Justice John Inyang Okoro held that the Appeal Court erred in law.
“I hold the view that the court below misconceived the real issue,” said the Justice, adding, “there was no controversy as to whi_ich organ of the 1st respondent (PDP) has power to conduct primaries. I can say it for the umpteenth time that the main issue was that stated by the learned trial judge. That is , whether the 1st respondent can ignore the subsisting order of court and set up a caretaker committee for Anambra State PDP in brazen contempt of the court. Period. Other issues that were thrown up were just to garnish the issue. Therefore, the court below having left the main issue controversy and…dwell on the issue as to which organ of PDP.”
The learned Judge continued, “accordingly, I hold that there was no feature in the court below to apply the cases of Okadigbo V. Emeka & Ors (supra) and Etnenike V. PDP (supra). The two authorities decide on which organ of a political party has powe·r to conduct primaries. This is not the issue in this case.”
Another aspect of the Supreme Court ruling which states the current position of Uba was indicated when the Supreme Court stated that ”with due respect, the court below came to the above conclusion because it misconceived the claim of the appellants before it. It is trite that in ·determining whether the facts in support of an Originating Summons are contentious, it is the nature of the claim and the facts deposed to in the affidavit in support of the claims that will be examined to see if they disclose disputed facts and a hostile nature of the proceedings.
“I may ask, is there any dispute that the Federal High Court made an order directing the 1st and 2nd respondents to recognize the appellants as Executive members of the PDP in Anambra State? The answer is No. Secondly, is there any dispute that the 2nd respondent wrote Exhibit E recognisng the 1st appellant and his executive committee members, as ordered by the court? Again, the answer is No.
“Thirdly, is there any dispute the fact that the 1st respondent reacted negatively by setting up a caretaker committee in spite of the order of the Federal High Court?· The answer is No. So, what are · we talking about?
“The issue before the trial court was whether the 1st respondent can rubbish the judgment/ order of the court for whatever reason and set up a caretaker committee, other claims notwithstanding. For me, I strongly hold the view that there is no dispute on the relevant/ essential facts granting the claims of the appellants which relate to the determination/interpretation of the action of the 1st respondent in setting up a caretaker committee of the PDP Anambra State Chapter during the pendency of the judgment/ order of the Federal High Court recognizing the ·appellants as persons duly elected to that position.
“The 1st and 3rd respondents have tried to raise issues which tend to show that there are conflicts as to facts. I do not see any. Those facts which seem to cause disputes are not relevant to the determination of the main issue before the court.”
Meanwhile, Senators Andy Uba, Stella Oduah and their colleagues in the House of Representatives from Anambra State have clarified the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that the Supreme Court judgment delivered on Friday has not vitiated their elections.
They insisted that the primary election that produced them as candidates for the 2015 general elections was conducted by the National Secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as required by law and not the Anambra chapter of the PDP as being insinuated.
There had been insinuations that the lawmakers may have lost their seats in the National Assembly, following a Supreme Court judgment that set aside a factional leadership of PDP in Anambra state.
Their lawyer, Chief Arthur Okafor, SAN said that the judgment did not in any way affect the validity of their election.
He cited two judgments of the Supreme Court to support his argument that the lawmakers were not removed by the judgment.
He said: “In two remarkable pronouncements, the Supreme Court of Nigeria eloquently held that no list other than that forwarded by the National Executive of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, shall be countenanced by the Commission.
“In Emeka v. Okadigbo (2012) 18 NWLR (Part 1331) 55 at 87 Paras H-C the court held thus:
‘A diligent reading of the above reveals that it is the National Executive Committee of the PDP that is responsible for the conduct of the party’s National Assembly primaries. The Court of Appeal was correct. There can only be one valid primary and that is the primaries conducted by the National Executive Committee. A primary conducted by the State Chapter of the PDP is not a primary. It is an illegal contraption that carries with it no rights. It is a complete nullity. The primaries conducted on the 8th of January, 2011 was conducted by the National Executive Committee of the PDP, and it was the only authentic primaries conducted by the PDP to choose its candidate for the Anambra North Senatorial Seat. On the other hand, the purported primaries conducted on the 10th or 12th of January, 2011 were conducted by the State Chapter of the PDP. It is null and void for the purpose of choosing the PDP’s candidate for the Senatorial elections. It is clear that at no time were two parallel primaries conducted’.”
He also cited the case of Emenike v. PDP (2012) 12 NWLR (Part 1315) 556 at 594 Para H, where the Supreme Court in interpreting a similar provision, “was emphatic that the PDP primaries conducted by the Abia State Executive Committee of PDP was illegal as it was not empowered to conduct primary election and that being the case, the Respondent who emerged from the said primary was not properly elected. Further at page 602 para H, the Supreme Court settled the position thus:
“It must be elementary now, that the only valid primary is the one conducted by the National Executive Committee of the PDP. The primary which the Appellant participated in was illegal, it having been conducted by the State Executive of the PDP.”
The lawyer said that all the affected lawmakers were duly nominated by the National Executive of the PDP for the 2015 General Election and they contested the Election and were duly returned as elected.
He said: “They were subsequently issued with their respective Certificates of Return and have since been performing the duties for which they were elected by their respective constituents before the election and during the nomination process, the National Executive duly forwarded our clients’ names which the Commission duly received.
“Thereafter owing to some shenanigans by some staff of the commission whom our clients believed were working for a self-styled State Executive Committee which were determined against the serene and settled position of the law to sponsor candidates for the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), our clients’ names were relegated.
“This created a situation whereby the legal department of the commission commenced playing a “musical chair” with list of candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when they were fully aware that the only authority that is competent to forward names of candidates is the National Executive Committee by virtue of correspondence signed by its National Chairman and Secretary.
“It was therefore odd for the Legal Department of the commission to have ill advised the commission to purport to accept the list forwarded by a self-styled State Executive, while disregarding the list already domiciled with the commission and forwarded by the National Executive of the party.
“By so doing, the commission purported to have acted pursuant to what was said to be an Order of Court made by the Federal High Court Abuja Division in FHC/ABJ/CS/854/2014.”
However, he argued that a perusal of the prder made in the said proceedings would not disclose any place where the Federal High Court Ordered the Commission to accept a list of candidates forwarded by a State Chapter of the PDP.
He said:”That would have been a total impertinence if not rascality as every High court is duty bound to obey the established principles of law as laid down by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“Thus, with or without an Order of Court, on no account would the legal department or any other authority advise the commission to accept a list forwarded by a self-styled State Executive.
The affected lawmakers are two senators Stella Oduah and Andy Uba.
Others are members of House of Representatives and they include Lynda Chuba Ikpeazu, Anayo Nnebe, Tony Nwoye Okechukwu, Chris Azubogu, Chukwuka Onyema, Obinna Chidoka and Eucharia Azodo.
The lawyer said: “The Supreme Court did not order the withdrawal of the Certificates of Return issued by the Commission to our clients. They did not hold that the faction of the PDP had the right to sponsor candidates for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).”
He said further that the court did not equally authorise the commission to substitute the law makers with the individuals whose names were on the list improperly allowed by INEC in obvious disregard of the series of judgments of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to the effect that it was only the National Executive of the party that has the vires to sponsor candidates.
‘There was no pronouncement that either he or others should vacate their seats’