Obiano wins again as Fed. High Court dismisses resurrected double registration suit

By Emeka Ozumba

The Federal High Court sitting in Awka, Anambra State capital Wednesday December 10, 2014 dismissed a suit on alleged double or multiple registration resurrected by an Onitsha based human rights lawyer, Jezie Ekejiuba, seeking the disqualification of Chief Willie Obiano as the All Progressives Congress (APGA) candidate and nullification of the November 2013 governorship election that gave him victory over alleged discrepancies in his voting documents during the November 2013 election.

In the suit No.FHC/AWK/CS/269/2013, brought against Chief Obiano, Anambra State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Chukwuemeka Onukogu, and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the plaintiff claimed the first defendant (Obiano) allegedly submitted fake voter's card in his INEC Form CF001 sworn affidavit contrary to Section 31 (1) to (6) of the Amended Electoral Act, 2010.

Delivering judgment in the suit, Presiding Judge, Justice Isah Gafai dismissed the suit for lack of merit and inconsistency in reliefs sought. Justice Gafai had outlined three issues for determination in favour of the first defendant's lawyer and one in favour of the plaintiff, describing the plaintiff's matter as a misconception, speculative and a non-issue.

He further dismissed the insistence of the plaintiff that the first defendant's voter's card with registration number ending with … 332, “is false because it is neither his voter's card with registration number ending with 172, …which he registered in Lagos, nor his voter's card number ending with 121, which he admitted was a product of his purported voter's transfer.''

According to the Presiding Judge, the first defendant, now Governor Willie Obiano had through his lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN asserted that he registered as a voter in Lagos and participated in elections there in 2011, and when it became apparent he would seek nomination as APGA candidate, he went through proper transfer process of his voter's card registration and winning the contest.

The Presiding Judge stated that after examining facts put forward by both parties in respect of Exhibit M, he could not find any information showing falsification of voting documents by the first defendant. Justice Gafai observed that the plaintiff by his overzealousness contended that the suit has nothing to do with criminal allegations; having referred to all national newspaper publications on double/multiple voter registration which he said is an offence of electoral fraud.

“It is self-contradictory to claim act of double or multiple registrations against the first defendant and on the other hand, claim his (plaintiff's) case is neither one of double registration or criminal matter,” Hon Justice Gafai held, adding that the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff to prove his case beyond all reasonable doubt.

The Hon Justice stated that, by the averment of the plaintiff, an offence of criminality was inputted, but he failed not only to report the matter to the police but also to prove it beyond all reasonable doubts. Justice Gafai had upheld the position of the first defendant's Counsel, Onyechi (SAN) seeking the dismissal of the suit on the ground that it had earlier been ruled on by the Supreme Court in separate related suits filed by Senator Dr. Chris Ngige as well as Tony Nwoye against Obiano during the polls and upheld his election.

Reacting to the verdict, the first defendant's lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, described it as a land mark judgment. He attributed the allegations of double/multiple voter registration against his client as the handiwork of detractors which has no proof. He stated that the judgment has affirmed the qualification of Chief Obiano to contest the election, which, he won and was issued with Certificate of Return by INEC, adding that his client did not give any false information as alleged.