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By Emmanuel Ogala
April 21, 2010 01:12AM
Joy Emordi, back at the Senate. Photo: COURTESY SENATORJOYEMODI.COM

Joy Emordi, who was removed as a Senator by a court last month, returned to her seat in the Senate yesterday amidst controversial circumstances. In the same move, her replacement, Alphonsus Ubanesse Igbeke, was escorted out of the National Assembly by guards before being sworn in.

Mr. Igbeke had initially been accosted by guards as he walked into the red chambers of the Senate. He, however, assumed it was part of the protocol for new senators and quietly complied. He was then held up outside the Senate chambers for about 30 minutes, by National Assembly guards.

Shortly after he sat in the red chamber, waiting to be called up by the Senate President for swearing in, the clerk of the Senate walked up to him, bowed and whispered in his ears.

'I was surprised when the Clerk came in to tell me that my opponent (Joy Emordi) is right there in the chamber sitting,' Mr Igbeke said.

On March 25, an appeal court sitting in Enugu had ruled that Joy Emordi, then a Senator of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) representing Anambra North, did not get the majority votes cast in the last general elections.

The court ruled that Mr. Igbeke of the All Nigeria people's Party (ANPP) got the majority vote and should be the Senator representing Anambra North. He was subsequently issued the Certificate of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). His visit to the Senate yesterday was an effort to be officially sworn in to replace Mrs. Emordi.

The same appeal court sitting in Enugu, but in a different case, had, in February last year, delivered a judgment validating the election that brought Mrs. Emordi into the Senate.

Mrs. Emordi, however, returned to the chamber, following an appeal she filed before the same court, seeking for an interpretation of review and interpretation of both judgments.

The Senate President, the Clerk of the Senate, and Mr. Igbeke are all respondents in the interpretation case.

'Her motion is seeking for perpetual injunction restraining me from presenting myself to the Clerk of the Senate for the purpose of swearing in, and also restraining the Clerk and the Senate President from swearing me in, but none of these courts have given her the injunction,' Mr. Igbeke said.

Although the Senate is yet to get an injunction from the court restraining it from swearing in Mr.Igbeke, it decided to recognize Mrs. Emordi of the PDP rather than Mr. Igbeke of the ANPP, based on the notice of the appeal served on the Senate President.

'We will be failing in our responsibilities to go and take any action that will foreclose whatever that interpretation meant to achieve,' Mr. Ayogu Eze, the Senate spokesperson, told reporters on Tuesday. 'So we are just obeying lawful orders and we don't have any reason whatsoever in the light of the two judgments, to ask Joy not to resume her seat until we get the interpretation.' 'It is shocking. It's a surprise. I can't believe this!' Mr. Igbeke said.

Two Certificates of Return, one seat
Despite Mrs. Emordi's earlier acceptance of the latest judgment and prompt departure from the Senate, the Senate spokesperson said she was only on a work tour during the days she stayed away from the Senate.

According to Mr. Eze, Mrs. Emordi is still recognized by the Senate as the Senator representing Anambra North because she still has a valid Certificate of Return from the INEC.

Meanwhile, Mr. Igbeke is also claiming he has been issued with a Certificate of Return by the INEC, which he has presented along with all other required documentation to the Clerk of the National Assembly and the leadership of the Senate.

'Normal thing is that if you get your Certificate of Return, you get your asset declaration and forward them to the Clerk. It is the Clerk who will now put them together and forward them to the Senate President for the purposes of swearing in,' Mr Igbeke explained.

Although the Senate did not refute his claims, the Senate spokesperson said they will work with Mrs. Emordi pending the determination of the interpretation suit she filed.

Mr. Igbeke, however, said he will not give up until he is sworn in. 'Tomorrow I am coming back again. Next tomorrow, I will be back, until the right thing is done.'