The Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu, on Monday, nullified the election of Mrs Uche Ekwunife, as the senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, consequent upon an appeal filed by Chief Victor Umeh of the All Progressives Grand Alliance.
Umeh, the candidate of APGA in the 2015 general election, had earlier lost to Ekwunife of the Peoples Democratic Party, at the election tribunal, which gave its ruling in Awka, the Anambra State capital.
However, in its verdict, the Appeal Court described the tribunal’s ruling as a perverse judgement, which could not stand and therefore ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct a fresh election in Anambra Central within 90 days to elect a new senator for the senatorial district.
At the end of the National Assembly election held on March 28, 2015, INEC’s returning officer, Dr. Pius Okoye, had declared Ekwunife of the PDP as winner of the polls. According to Okoye, Ekwunife polled 101,548 votes to defeat 14 other candidates with Umeh of APGA securing 77,129 votes to come second while Chris Ngige of the All Progressives Congress, who was the then incumbent senator, garnered 20,850 votes to place third.
The former APGA national chairman faulted INEC’s pronouncement and insisted that “the results that were announced by INEC had no relationship with polling booths’ results generated during the exercise on Saturday (March 28, 2015) and we therefore, reject the result of the National Assembly election declared by INEC in Anambra State, and Anambra Central in particular.”
In his characteristic manner, Umeh, a respected politician, saw the tribunal as his next option. And as soon as the National Assembly election petition tribunal came on board in Anambra State, he did not waste time to present his case before it.
Unfortunately, rather than granting the reliefs sought by Umeh and APGA, the tribunal affirmed Ekwunife of PDP as the winner of the Anambra Central senatorial election, maintaining that the petitioners failed to establish their case, which they anchored on alleged mutilations and incorrect figures.
Convinced that the evidence he produced at the tribunal was enough to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt as against the judgement it delivered, Umeh proceeded to the appellate court where justice, indeed, came his way.
In his reaction to the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Umeh described it as clearly an act of God, noting that, “PDP died the day Jonathan lost election; they should cover themselves with a blanket of shame.
At the tribunal, they were laughing at us, but today they are covered with shame. We would have won the first election but they introduced impunity and recklessness; they used the police, the army to rig the election.”
The APGA chieftain expressed optimism that he would emerge triumphant in the rerun declared by the Appeal Court, saying, “I will write INEC before this election and I’m optimistic that those who were involved in the former election will not be involved in conducting this new exercise.”
Umeh, seen dancing with his supporters in jubilation over the verdict, praised the Appeal Court judges for “standing strong on the path of truth despite every pressure. This Appeal Court has always been where I get justice, because this is where you find men of integrity.”
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the rerun. However, Umeh’s supporters are confident that the Appeal Court victory they are celebrating today will not be cut short by the outcome of the fresh election any day it is conducted.
For them, their man will certainly carry the day as it has become obvious that the original poll was heavily manipulated and rigged in favour of the PDP candidate.
But a reaction to the judgement is still due from Ekwunife, who, along with her aides, has declined media comments.