The electoral tribunal in Awka this afternoon dismissed a petition by former Information Minister and ex NAFDAC boss, Dora Akunyili challenging the election of Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige as the senator for Anambra Central senatorial zone.
At today’s session, Emeka Ngige, the lead lawyer for Senator Ngige, drew the tribunal’s attention to recent rulings by the Supreme Court to the effect that electoral petitions must be heard within the constitutionally stipulated 180 days.
Mr. Emeka Ngige drew the tribunal’s attention to the apex court’s verdict that the 180-day provision was akin to “the Rock of Gibraltar or Mount Zion,” adding that the Supreme Court’s judgment prohibits any tribunal from adding even a second to the period allowed by the constitution for petitions to be disposed.
O.J. Nnadi, the lawyer representing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also argued in support of the plea to strike out Dr. Akunyili’s petition in view of the Supreme Court’s binding decision.
Obiora Obianwu (SAN), the lead lawyer for Mrs. Akunyili, made a futile attempt to convince the tribunal to grant him a few days within which to respond to the motion to dismiss the case. After the tribunal’s rejection of his plea, Mr. Obianwu then argued that the Supreme Court’s decision on the 180-provision could not apply to the case of his client. He contended that the tribunal as well as the Court of Appeal in Enugu had earlier ruled that his client’s case could proceed beyond the 180 days. He insisted that the Court of Appeal’s decision on the matter should be deemed the final word going by the 1999 Constitution that made that appellate court the final destination for senatorial election petitions.
Mr. Obianwu stated;
“The matter did not go on appeal to Supreme Court. The decision of the Supreme Court does not apply.”
After listening to legal arguments from lawyers on both sides, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Onajite Kuejubola, ruled that the tribunal must bow to the Supreme Court’s decision on the issue of 180 days.
“We have taken a careful study of the Supreme Court’s decision and there is no doubt that it had been finally settled,” she said, adding that her tribunal lacked jurisdiction to continue hearing the petition.
Mrs. Akunyili who often wrote updates on her Facebook page in which she invoked God and gave rosy accounts of her performance at the tribunal was conspicuously absent from today’s ruling. However, her husband was at hand to hear the verdict.
Reports have it that Mrs. Akunyili would appeal today’s judgment.