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Anambra: Obi wins again

Posted by By GODWIN TSA, Abuja and GEOFFREY ANYANWU, Awka on 2008/02/02 | Views: 339 |

Anambra: Obi wins again

Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State on Tuesday at the Supreme Court survived another move to sack him from office with the apex court dismissing the suit initiated by Andy Uba, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State on Tuesday at the Supreme Court survived another move to sack him from office with the apex court dismissing the suit initiated by Andy Uba, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

It was jubilation galore in Awka as news of the dismissal of the suit filtered into the city. Uba had filed an application praying the court to set aside its judgement which declared Mr Peter Obi as the one eligible to occupy the governor’s seat.

Before the judgment of the court, one of the applicants seeking to remove the governor, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo of the Nigeria Advance Party (NAP) was exposed as a political fraudster who goes about collecting money from political opponents “in the name of settlement.”
He was accordingly dressed down by the court which pronounced him “a common criminal not fit to be in the comity of decent persons.”

The Supreme Court had on June 14, 2007 cut short the 16-day regime of Uba as governor of the state when he was ordered to vacate the office and to hand over the reins of power to his predecessor, Governor Obi.
In doing so, Justice Iorgyer Katsina-Alu who delivered the lead judgment held that section 180 (2) (a) on which Obi anchored his case for the extension of his tenure of office provided that he shall vacate office at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from when he took the oath of allegiance.
Justice Katsina-Alu also agreed with the arguments canvassed by Peter Obi that his four year tenure would expire on March 27, 2010, having been sworn-in as governor on March 27, 2007.

While the apex court berated the INEC for going ahead to conduct election into the governorship position of Anambra State when the matter was still pending in court, it said there was no vacancy to the office of Governor of Anambra State as at May 29, 2007, when Uba was sworn-in as governor of the state.

Accordingly, the court ordered that he vacate the office and hand over power to r Peter Obi.
But in a fresh bid to reclaim his mandate, Uba, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and Mr. Okonkwo of the Nigeria Advance Party, filed an application before the court to set aside its judgment, which they alleged was a nullity.

They hinged their arguments on the backdrop that the notice of appeal filed by Peter Obi at the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal which culminated in the judgment of the Supreme Court was null and void, having not been validly filed in substantial compliance of order 3 rule 2 of the rules of court.
But delivering judgment on the preliminary objections raised by counsel to Governor Obi and other respondent/applicants, the court threw out the application on the grounds that it was not competent as the issues raised therein amounted to a wild goose chase.

Justice Katsina-Alu said that the fifth respondent never raised any irregularity at the lower court, thinking that he has a joker by raising the issue of jurisdiction at any time, adding that the court had given its final judgment on Anambra State.

He said that the matter of jurisdiction fell within a narrow compass and that the argument that the application should be heard on merit is a wild goose chase.
His words: “Remarkably, the 5th respondent (Andy Uba) was aware of the irregularities while the proceedings were pending but he never complained. The court below was led into giving judgment in his favour and if the court did not avert its mind to it, it will be because it thought little of the non-compliance.

The 5th respondent cannot now complain of having benefited from it. He cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. The mistake of his counsel is his belief that he has a joker and can raise it at another stage. This is a wrong assumption. Litigation premised on this is wrong.
“As at the time it was filed, the records were all before the court. This court has given its final judgment on this matter and cannot revisit it. Under section 235 of the 1999 constitution, this court has jurisdiction to interfere with the judgment of other courts. The argument that this appeal should be heard on its merit is an invitation to engage in a wild goose chase.

“It is my view that this is a clear case of which this court cannot invoke its jurisdiction. I will accordingly strike out this application with no cost.”
And back in the state, civil servants and political appointees who before then were tense, popped champaigne in gratitude to God.
Reacting to the judgment, Governor Peter Obi said there was neither winner nor loser and urged all to join hands in building a better society.

He said, “This afternoon, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its June 14, 2007 decision that my tenure of office is four years from the date I took the oath of allegiance. For me, it calls for sober reflection on Anambra State and how we can move together in the spirit of oneness to build a better society for our children.

“I want to state clearly that there is no winner or loser. God in his infinite mercies has continued to answer the prayers of our people. The decision by the Supreme Court underscores the general belief that the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man. The rule of law is the bedrock for the sustenance of democracy and equity. It is not about Peter Obi, it is about the future of our children.”

The former Governor of the state Dr. Chris Ngige commended the Supreme Court for upholding itself, and in extension granting peace in the state. He said: “It was expected. I had no doubt in my mind that the Supreme Court cannot revert itself after delivering a landmark judgment.
“I congratulate the Supreme Court for giving Anambra State a new lease of life, what it has done is to show that, it is the apex court in the country and all hands should be on deck to move Anambra forward, both economically, politically and socially.”

The Ohaneze in its own reaction, said that by the judgment, the Supreme Court had further confirmed that Nigerian judiciary was still firm in enthroning democratic principles in the polity.
Ohaneze President General, Dr. Dozie Ikedife said: “With this development, all political hostilities and moments of anxiety have been put to rest. I urge Obi to ensure he continues to run an all inclusive government.”

Also speaking, the state chairman of the Action Congress (AC), Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu said that the case in the first instance was an abuse of court process and the judiciary.
“And I have always said that the hallowed institute of the Supreme Court ought not to be abused by individual’s penchant for gold digging. So I think the judgment is in good taste and it is in the best interest of Anambrarians. Obviously there will be stability now and the government will not have any excuse for not performing.”

For the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) in the state, the Supreme Court ruling was commendable just as the organization commended Uba for toeing the line of due process in the pursuit of his cause, urging him to continue in same manner in his political career.
Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi who spoke to newsmen said: “Anambra State has become the most discretional federating unit of the Nigerian federation, the state has set a standard for other states to emulate, the issue of political lunacy now has become a history in Anambra State.”

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