Anambra Governorship: Supreme Court Upholds Obiano's Victory
…APGA Chairman Umeh Hails Ruling
SAN FRANCISCO, September 22, (THEWILL) - The election of Chief Willie Obiano as the governor of Anambra State was upheld Monday by the Supreme Court.
The apex court also dismissed the appeals brought by the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Chris Ngige and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Tony Nwoye.
The court, in a unanimous judgment, held that the appellants woefully failed to prove their allegations that the election was not conducted in compliance with the Electoral Act.
Reading the lead judgement, Justice Bayang.K. Akaahs, held that the appellants failed to substantiate their claims and that in the circumstance, the Supreme Court had no reason to disturb the concurrent judgments of both the Election Petition â€ŽTribunal and the Court of Appeal.
According to Justice Akaahs, “The petitioners called 25 witnesses when there was over 4,000 polling units in the state, and over one million voters. The Justice Uwais reform committee had recommended that the burden of proving that elections were conducted in substantial compliance with the law rests with INEC. But since the law has not been passed into law, the onus of proof still rests with the petitioner, the allegation that there were mistakes in the voters register could not be seen as act of non substantial compliance with the provisions of the electoral act.”
He also held that the action of INEC in correcting the mistakes in the voters register was not enough to call for the cancellation of the elections.
“On the allegations of double registration against Obiano, there is no evidence to show that the governor registered twice,â€Ž” he held.
The court also concluded that where the allegation of disenfranchisement of voters could not be established, the results of the election would be determined by the number of votes.
According to Justice Akaahs : “Almost all the issues raised in this appeal are issues of facts which the tribunal made pronouncements on and which were endorsed by the court of appeal, the Supreme Court will not interfere in the two concurrent findings of the two lower courts as the appellants have not been able to provide evidence that the decisions were biased. The appeal therefore lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed.”
The apex court thereafter affirmed INEC's declaration of Obiano as the duly elected governor of Anambra State.
In his concurrent judgment on the appeal brought by Nwoye, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola said: “The appellant's allegation of non- compliance with the Electoral Act failed woefully.
He has not shown why this court will interfere with the concurrent findings of the court below, the appeal is therefore dismissed.”
In his ruling on the PDP appeal, Justice John Iyang Okoro, said: “On the first issue which the appellant raised that Obiano was not qualified to have stood elections, he was alleged to have violated Section 81(5) of the Electoral Act, the allegation is founded on Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act, the appellant was unable to convince the court that Obiano was convicted of any offence to warrant his disqualification.
“Such allegations cannot be ventilated at the elections petitions tribunal, the Federal High Court, State High Court are venues for the ventilation of such claims, as the electoral tribunals lack the powers to disqualify a candidate for multiple registration in an election that has been concluded, this is common sense.
“In view of the fact that the allegations against Obiano are criminal in nature, they ought to have been proved beyond all reasonable grounds.
“They also failed to prove that the election was not conducted substantially in compliance with the Electoral Act, we have come to an irresistible conclusions that appellant has failed to prove his case beyond reasonable ground, I accordingly dismiss the appeal.”
In his reaction to the Supreme Court judgement, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, said the court had once again reinforced the confidence that Nigerians have in the nation's judiciary.
“We are happy that the Supreme Court has affirmed the election of Obiano as the Governor of Anmabra State. What this means is that an APGA Governor will be in office until 2018, for another four years,' he said.
According to him, “It is a lot of lifeline for the party. The decision will motivate the party to go into the 2015 general elections more determined, re-invigorated and focused to win more seats, more National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly seats in 2015.
“So we are going into the elections with one state in our kitty. Nobody knows what will happen next year. The judgment has clearly shown that our judiciary is working, it is real confirmation that the judiciary is working and alive to its responsibilities.”
Counsel to Ngige and APC, Chief Rotimi Akeredoku, SAN ,who appeared with Emeka Ngige, SAN as well as Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN for Nwoye and the PDP had asked the court to nullify the elections on the grounds that the register of voters was tampered with after the 60 days before the elections contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act.
They also asked the court to disqualify Obiano on the basis of alleged double registration.