Court Voids Nzeribe’s Election

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The election of a mem-ber of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP], representing Ihiala Federal Constituency of Anambra State in the Federal House of Representatives, Hon Chuma Nzeribe, has been nullified  by the Appeal Court sitting in Enugu.

Hon Vitalis Okafor, also of the PDP had filed an appeal at the appellate court, challenging the verdict of the lower tribunal that sat in Awka, which declared Nzeribe the PDP flag bearer and winner of the Federal House of Representatives Election for Ihiala Federal Constituency held in April, 2007.

He submitted that he was earlier cleared as the PDP candidate for the House of Representatives 2007 election for Ihiala Federal Constituency but was unlawfully substituted with Mr. Nzeribe shortly before the election.

Hon Okafor therefore prayed the appellate court to declare him the valid winner of both the PDP primary and the House of Representatives election for Ihiala Federal Constituency.

Delivering the lead judgment on the appeal, Justice Alfred Ariwola ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission {INEC} to withdraw the certificate of return it had earlier issued to Nzeribe as well as to issue a fresh certificate of return to Hon Vitalis Okafor.

Justice Ariwola submitted that since the PDP had earlier submitted Okafor’s name to INEC as its candidate, it was therefore wrong to substitute him later with another person .

“There is merit in this appeal.  The appellant is therefore declared the candidate and winner of the Peoples Democratic Party for the House of Representative Election in Ihiala Federal Constituency in 2007.  INEC is therefore ordered to withdraw the certificate of return of 2nd respondent (Chuma Nzeribe).

Also delivering judgment on the appeal brought before it by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, Senator Ayogu Eze, the court set aside the ruling of the lower tribunal that sat in Enugu  which had earlier nullified Eze,s election in favour of the candidate of the Action Congress [AC], Retired General  J O J Okoloagu.

The judgment which was read by Justice Aminchi Sanusi resolved the eight issues for determination in favour of Senator Eze.

A cost of N30,000 was subsequently awarded against the Action Congress candidate.

“The appeal is meritorious and is hereby allowed. The judgement of the lower tribunal is hereby set aside”, the Judge further  stated.

In a swift  reaction shortly after the judgement, General  Okoloagu described the judgment as “scandalous and a shame” to the country.  I  am  ashamed to be a lawyer”, he said.

“It is an embarrassing judgment, I am worried, I must confess, honestly speaking I am disappointed. If this country goes into the next election without option A4, this country is done for”,  he  further regretted.

Also reacting, the PDP Chairman, Enugu North Senatorial Zone, Chief Mike Ejinma, said the jugement was clear.

He contended that an election cannot be rendered invalid because of a few election irregularities, adding,  “I am happy the appeal court has upheld the

verdict of the electorates who voted Senator Ayaogu Eze  into office.