In a surprising turn of events, the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has nullified the election victory of Hon. Udefuna Chukwudi of the Labour Party, representing Ezeagu Constituency in the Enugu State House of Assembly. The court cited the lawmaker’s inability to meet constitutional literacy requirements as grounds for the decision.
Rt. Hon. Chima Obieze of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been declared the rightful winner of the March 18th election, following the successful appeal.
The shocking verdict emerged as the appellate court accused Hon. Udefuna Chukwudi of failing to fulfill the constitutional requirements for holding public office. The decision was a result of a challenge brought by Obieze, who contested Udefuna’s victory on the grounds of invalid nomination, non-qualification, and a disregard for the 2022 electoral act.
Earlier, on September 28th, 2023, the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petitions sitting in Enugu state had upheld Udefuna’s victory, affirming that his election adhered to the electoral act and met the minimum requirements for contesting the election.
Obieze, in his appeal, argued against the qualification of Udefuna, stating that it was not only contrary to the 1999 constitution as amended but also inconsistent with a previous Supreme Court judgment on a similar matter.
The crux of Obieze’s argument revolved around Udefuna’s lack of the minimum academic qualification, specifically a “school certificate or its equivalent” as mandated by the constitution (Section 106(c)). According to the constitution’s interpretation section (Section 318(1)), this includes a secondary school certificate or its equivalent, Grade II Teacher’s Certificate, city and guild’s certificate, education up to the secondary school certificate level, or a primary six school leaving certificate or its equivalent.
Obieze pointed out that a Primary Six School Leaving Certificate alone does not qualify as a School Certificate or its equivalent, as stipulated in Section 106 of the Constitution.
Moreover, Obieze highlighted a Supreme Court judgment, Lado Anor vs. Masari Ors (2019) LPELR-55596 (SC), which clarified that a person relying on a Primary Six School Leaving Certificate must satisfy additional conditions listed in the constitution.
The Court of Appeal, in upholding Obieze’s appeal, emphasized that Udefuna failed to demonstrate the minimum requirement of being able to read and write. As a result, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been directed to issue a certificate of return to Obieze, officially declaring him the winner of the election.
This unexpected development adds a new layer of complexity to the Enugu State House of Assembly representation, raising questions about the scrutiny of candidates’ qualifications in future elections.