UNNECESSARY SQUABBLE OVER IGBEKE AT SENATE
When on March 25, 2010 the Court of Appeal in Enugu returned Mr. Alphonsus Igbeke as the duly elected senatorial candidate in the April 27, 2007, the expectation was that INEC and the Senate will comply immediately.
But that compliance was unduly delayed thereby throwing up an unnecessary controversy and fight between Nigerians who have respect for the law and the senate. However Mrs. Joy Emordi who lost in the court in a comical fashion aimed at ridiculing the judiciary returned to the Court of Appeal for a judicial interpretation of its judgment vis-a-vis an earlier judgment by the same Appeal Court in a matter between Mrs. Jessie Balonwu and Mrs. Joy Emordi over the same senatorial seat.
Regrettably the handlers of former Senator Joy Emordi in a willful debacle to impugn the collective integrity of the judiciary more or less brought what I will call an appeal over an appeal in the same Court of Appeal over two separate matters that are easily distinguishable from one another as can be discerned by lawyers and non lawyers alike.
The Court of Appeal refusing to be ridiculed in a straightforward judgment delivered on Wednesday May 12 distinguished the case of Balonwu vs. Emordi from Igbeke vs. Emordi. The Court of Appeal as expected held that the earlier case which was determined technically in favour of Emodi did not have Mr. Igbeke as a party besides the fact that the plaintiff in that case did not join a very crucial and relevant party -INEC in the suit. In other words all the issues were not ventilated in that court at that time. The later case had Igbeke as a party and INEC was a party too. The court therefore had the opportunity of determining the matter on merit by returning Mr. Igbeke of ANPP as the lawfully elected senator of Anambra North Senatorial district. The court ordered the Senate to immediately swear in Mr. Igbeke.
To the chagrin of all observers, the senate failed to inaugurate Mr. Igbeke on Thursday May 13 until when it pleased them. Whatever reason the Senate might have given for this flagrant disobedience of the order of the Court of Appeal left an ugly shadow in the face of our democracy and it is unacceptable. It was bad enough that the senate supported, encouraged and colluded with Mrs. Emordi to deny the entire members of Anambra North senatorial district of the representation by their duly and truly elected senator upon the pronouncement of the court.
While this tragic charade lasted Mrs. Emordi is busy earning illegal salary and allowances from the senate aside from the ones she earned while she illegally sat in the senate for two and half years. She even took the odd step of serving the senate with a Notice of Appeal to the Supreme Court. That desperation reminds one of Andy Ubah in his ill-advised quest to govern Anambra State - through judicial forum shopping. Emordi's intention was to take us through that ignoble route yet again.
Yes, Senate has done a u-turn, but in the first place, the fight it started was uncalled for and should not have arisen. The sanctimonious and clever plea of non-interference with matters in court unfortunately didn't avail this senate. It was a shameful affront on the rule of law and our democracy. This is more so when the senate, as much as we do, knows that the Court of Appeal is the last court of the land that is seized with the adjudication of electoral matters consistent with the extant Electoral Act.
The Senate knows as we do that further reference of this matter to the Supreme Court was a mean and obnoxious ploy to buy time by the embattled Emordi. This more than reminds the nation of the urgent need for the much anticipated electoral reform. It is injustice if the winner of an election waits till two and half years to have justice in an electoral matter while the loser holds sway and in this case shamelessly. As a matter of urgency the National Assembly must amend the extant electoral law and thank goodness the Uwais Report on Electoral reform is before them unedited. The National Assembly should pass that bill to save this democracy from being torpedoed.
No set of politicians in the annals of our political history and democracy ever tasked the judiciary as the present crop of politicians. Thankfully the judiciary through the days of yore - of the revered Late Justice Shodeinde Sowemimo till date in spite of being unnecessarily over laboured has continued to rescue our democracy and save Nigerian nation. Think of what would have been without the Judiciary.
We must call on these senators to stop ridiculing themselves and the hallowed chambers where they sit next by deliberately delaying what should be done for selfish reasons of favouring their colleague who came there unlawfully.thank goodness they have finally agreed to comply but it is belated and the tussle was unnecessary.
•By AZUBUIKE OBIEKWE, lawyer and commentator wrote from Lagos.