A consortium of senior lawyers has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to suspend the planned rerun election for the Anambra Central Senatorial district scheduled for January 13, until the legal disputes including judgments in respect of the disputed seat are settled.
The lawyers Chief Sabastine Hon (SAN) and Festus Keyamo (SAN) jointly wrote a letter to the chairman of the INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu dated January 8, 2018 on the subject matter.
In the said letter obtained by our correspondent, the senior lawyers warned the Commission of the legal consequences of proceeding with the rerun election in the face of a subsisting consent judgment of a Federal High Court in Abuja which declared Dr. Obiora Okonkwo as winner of the seat is set aside.
The letter drew the attention of the INEC boss to the December 13, consent judgment of Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, which declared their client (Okonkwo) as winner of the Anambra Central Senatorial district, and which has not been set aside.
Justice Tsoho had in the said judgment in reference ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Obiora Okonkwo as the winner of the Anambra Central Senatorial seat.
INEC is yet to comply with the judgment of the Federal High Court which has not been appealed against.
The letter titled ” request to stay action or suspend conduct of the rerun election in the Anambra Central Senatorial district, slated for Saturday, 13th January, 2018, and obtained by our correspondent reads:
” We are solicitors to Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, who on 13 /12/ 2017, was ordered by the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Coram Justice John Tsoho to be issued by your commission with a certificate of return as the Senator-elect representing the above named senatorial district, we hereby write on our client’s instructions.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, certified copies of the said consent judgment and the judgment order have already been served on your office by Bailiff of the Federal High Court. Our office also wrote several letters to you, not only informing you of that judgment, but also forwarding certified copies of same to you.
Till date, you have refused, failed and or neglected to comply with the judgment of this court of competent jurisdiction. Also, Bailiffs of the Federal High Court went to your office today, 8th January, 2018 to serve you with Form 48, but you refused service and instead directed them to serve the legal department of INEC, when you know or should know that personal service, unless substituted service is ordered, is mandatory when Form 48 is issued.
From the above, your body language and that of the commission suggest that your commission is preparing to go on with the disputed rerun election, in spite of the consent judgment of Justice Tsoho. We, however, wish to draw your attention to the following salient facts:
“Your Commission knows very well that it cannot lawfully or validly go ahead with the planned rerun, hence it has briefed a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Asiwaju Solomon Awomolo to file a motion on notice at the Federal High Court, seeking to “vary” the consent judgment of Tsoho, we have already been served with the motion and we have responded thereto accordingly.
“However, in paragraph 9 of the affidavit in support, Alhassan A. Umar of INEC’s legal department has acknowledged the existence of prior Court of Appeal decisions and the decision of Justice Tsoho, and has stated that “the Commission is bound by the subsisting orders.
“Also, in paragraph 6 of the affidavit of urgency deposed to by the same Alhassan A. Umar, the court is urged to hear the motion to vary the judgment of Tsoho, expeditiously “for parties to have their fate determined.”
These are all INEC documents before the court, voluntarily filed by the INEC admitting that unless and until the judgment of Justice Tsoho in set aside, the rerun cannot go on.
The letter further drew the attention of the INEC chairman to a suit filed by Okonkwo marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1294/2017 against INEC and all the participating political parties and their candidates, seeking to stop the rerun, which has been served on the Commission.
While noting that there was no justifiable reason on the part of INEC to proceed with the rerun, the lawyers warned that “going on with the rerun election will be legally and even morally disastrous for the Commission and your person.”
“We do hope you and your Commissioners and all decision makers of the Commission will appreciate the implication of going on with the planned rerun, in spite of the weighty legal and factual issues in this letter.”