Suit To Declare Ekweremadu’s Seat Vacant Wicked, Void – Lawyer


By Adadainfo

Chinenye Orji, a lawyer, Thursday, faulted a suit by one Ogochukwu Onyema to declare the seat of the Enugu West senatorial zone vacant following the absence of the senator representing the district in the Senate. Ike Ekweremadu has been in a UK jail where he faces charges on an alleged organ harvest of a minor. He was arrested on June 22, 2022.

Mr Onyema had filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Enugu, to declare the seat vacant on the grounds that Ekweremadu had been absent, and the people of the zone had been deprived of representation in the National Assembly.

In the lawsuit marked FHC/EN/CS/7/2022, Onyema is also seeking an order of the court to mandate the Peoples Democratic Party to ‘select, nominate, and forward’ his name to the National Assembly ‘as a replacement’ for Senator Ekweremadu. He said he was the runner-up in the election that produced Ekweremadu.

He also prayed the court to mandate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ‘withdraw or revoke, as the case may be, the certificate of return earlier issued to the 3rd defendant (Ekweremadu) and issue a fresh certificate of return’ to him.

In a reaction, Mr Orji said that even if a vacancy occurs for any reason, the seat would not be inherited by anybody, as Section 76 of the constitution provides that INEC must conduct a fresh election within 30 days to fill such vacancy.

Quoting him, “Section 68 (1) provides, among others, that a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if he becomes a member of another legislative house; any other circumstances arise that, if he were not a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives, would cause him to be disqualified for election as a member; he ceases to be a citizen of Nigeria; without just cause he is absent from meetings of the House of which he is a member for a period amounting in the aggregate to more than one-third of the total number of days during which the House meets in any one year; being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party without a division or a merger affecting the party that previously sponsored him; or the presiding officer receives a certificate under the hand of the INEC chairman stating that the provisions of Section 69 of the constitution in respect of the recall of a lawmaker have been complied with.

“But even at that, Section 68 (3) provides that a senator or House member shall not be deemed to be absent without just cause from a meeting of the House unless the person presiding certifies in writing that he is satisfied that the absence of the member from the meeting was for a just cause.”

He said none of these applies to Senator Ekweremadu yet, as he had not been absent for no just cause or for one-thirds of the total number of sitting of the Senate in 2022.

In his words, “A year is 365 days, but remember that Senate sits for only three days in a week, that if from Tuesday to Thursday. Ekweremadu was arrested in the UK around 22nd June and Senate on recess in July and returned on 20th September. So, there is no way he could be absent from session for one-thirds of the seating between now and December because the Senate will only sit for a maximum of 42 days. When you take the Christmas it will be much less.

“And if you add New Year and 2023 election recess, there is no way he could have absented himself from plenary for the remaining part of the lifespan of the Senate, which will most likely end in May 2023.

“Besides, Onyema placed third in the said primary, not second; and even if he came second, he would still not inherit Enugu West seat because Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution provides that where a vacancy exists in the National Assembly, such vacancy shall be filled within 30 days vide an election on a date to be appointed by INEC.

“Also, the Electoral Act 2022 provides that you cannot occupy an elective position without participating in all the processes leading to the election. So, did O.A.U Onyema contest the senatorial election in 2019? The answer is ‘No’. We know Onyema has always wanted to be in the Senate, being a perennial senatorial aspirant. But it must not be through the backdoor.”

Adadainfo is an online newspaper reporting Nigerian news. Email: Phone: 08071790941

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