Written by Beatrice Onuchukwu, Akwa & Abdul-Rahman Abubakar:
Within hours after the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division threw Mrs. Joy Emodi out of the Senate, several senators commenced a campaign for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to nominate her as a minister to replace the controversial former Minister of Information and Communication Prof. Dora Akunyili, who is one of the nine former ministers already nominated for reappointment. Emodi, like Akunyili, is from Anambra State.
The Court of Appeal had ruled yesterday that Mrs. Joy Emodi, who is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member, was not the Senator duly-elected to represent Anambra North senatorial district. The Court, led by Justice Ola Kayode Ariwola, unanimously ruled that Mr. Alphonsus Uba Igbeke of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) was the authentic winner of the seat in the April 28, 2007 election.
A reliable source at the Senate told Daily Trust that many senators are determined that Mrs. Akunyili will not return to the Federal Executive Council. They said the Acting President should either drop her nomination or they will ensure that she fails at the Senate screening. As soon as Emodi lost her Senate seat yesterday, they cashed in on it and proposed her as a replacement.
The Election Petition tribunal had earlier returned Emodi as winner of the 2007 election, but Igbeke appealed the ruling on the grounds that she was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the election and that her return was invalid by reason of substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2006. He said he polled the majority of lawful votes cast at the election and ought to have been declared winner of the election.
He said there was no election in all the polling units/booths in Onitsha South and Ayamelum local government areas of Anambra North Senatorial District on April 28, 2007 and that all the votes credited to all the candidates at the polling units in both Onitsha South and Ayamelum LGAs be set aside and nullified.
According to him, election held in only five out of seven LGAs of Anambra East, Anambra West, Ogbaru, Onitsha North and Oyi LGAs of Anambra North Senatorial District but the electoral body did not collate the results of all the wards and LGA collation centres but proceeded to award arbitrary figures to the candidates not related to the votes cast at the election as declared by the Presiding Officers, and that they went ahead to return Emodi as the winner of the election.
He said that the non-conduct of the election in the two LGAs of Onitsha South and Ayamelum due to non-supply and distribution of election materials in these areas did not materially affect the result of the election, going by the total registered voters.
The Court agreed with him and directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Emodi and return same immediately to Igbeke.
Reacting to the judgment, counsel to Senator Emodi, Hipo Onwuegbuka, said as a lawyer, he accepted the judgment since the Court of Appeal is the final arbiter. Also speaking, counsel to Igbeke, Gozie Obi described the judgment as sound, saying though justice had been done, it took a fairly long time in coming. On his part, Igbeke expressed happiness at the judgment and said it showed that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.
Speaking to Daily Trust on condition of anonymity last night, a senator said, “Several of us have resolved that Akunyili would not be allowed to return to the cabinet which she helped destabilise by her unguarded utterances before the dissolution of the FEC. We have started working to ensure that she is replaced by Senator Emodi who is also from Anambra state.”
The senator said Akunyili’s nomination is bound to face stiff opposition due to her comments in the wake of the political logjam caused by the illness of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua.
“She made comments unbecoming of a public officer. If you could remember, she was called to order by several highly placed individuals and institutions in the country, including the House of Representatives. Such a person should not be allowed to return to the cabinet,” the senator said.
Daily Trust learnt that the senators have resolved after a meeting to push the proposal forward by convincing Senate President David Mark to support the replacement of Akunyili with Emodi.
The senators, according to our source, have resolved that should their bid for the replacement of Akunyili fail, “We will stand as opposition to her nomination during the screening and we will ensure that she is disqualified.”
It was also gathered that lobbying has been intensified by former National Planning Minister Senator Sanusi Daggash to persuade senators to support his confirmation during the screening hearing.
“We have suggested to him (Daggash) that he must try to approach every senator because there is problem. There are senators that are bent on disqualifying him because of the problems he had with the Senate when he was minister. If you observe, his name was even booed by senators when it was announced,” a source said.
Prof. Akunyili presented a memo to the last FEC seeking to declare President Umaru Musa Yar’adua incapacitated and she severally accused some of her colleagues of being part of a “cabal” standing between then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan and full presidential powers.
Her comments attracted condemnations from many quarters, including the PDP national leadership, the National Governors Forum and the House of Representatives. She was later sacked when Jonathan dissolved the FEC, only to resurface among the 33 nominees whose names have been sent to the Senate for confirmation, the process for which begins on Monday.
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