A senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Arthur Okafor has contended that the Supreme Court did not sack National Assembly legislators elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the judgment delivered last Friday, contrary to popular impression.
There have been calls on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw certificates of return issued to Senators Andy Uba, Stella Oduah and their colleagues in the House of Representatives from Anambra State over insinuations that the Supreme Court judgment delivered on Friday has vitiated their elections.
The Supreme Court had in the judgment declared the executive of PDP which conducted the primary that led to the emergence of lawmakers as illegal.
But the lawmakers insisted that the primary election that produced them as candidates for the 2015 general elections was conducted by the National Secretariat of PDP as required by law and not the Anambra chapter of the party as being insinuated.
Chief Okafor (SAN ) who is a lawyer to the lawmakers 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 order 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 . Other 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 authorize 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. (The News)