Community asks court to stop INEC from conducting election in disputed area

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BY VINCENT UJUMADU
THE Nkwelle Ezunaka community in Oyi local government area of Anambra State yesterday asked the Federal High Court sitting in Awka to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from conducting the April 2011 general election at Ward 12, GRA, Onitsha, unless the area was designated an  Nkwelle Ezunaka Ward.

The area, comprising the Federal Housing Estate, Akpaka, and Mba Farms, had been in dispute between the people of Onitsha and Nkwelle Ezunaka for decades.

In the suit No FHC/AWK/15/92/2011 filed on behalf of the community by the president-general of the town union, Elder Chris Eluemuno, and two others against INEC, the plaintiffs argued that conducting the forthcoming election in the disputed area under Onitsha Ward 12 would cause a breach of the peace and create a state of insecurity.

In a 25-point affidavit sworn to by the plaintiffs, they argued that Anambra State government’s official gazette of 1994 clearly spelt out that the disputed area fell within Nkwelle Ezunaka, adding that the people of Onitsha had in a previous judgment on the matter, admitted that the area belonged to Nkwelle Ezunaka in Oyi.

In the affidavit, the plaintiffs stated that in 2010, they wrote to the defendant complaining about the cessation of parts of Nkwelle Ezunaka to Onitsha through the creation of Ward 12, Onitsha, and gave pre-action notice to INEC, which the commission acknowledged.

They regretted that notwithstanding the complaints, INEC had concluded plans to conduct the forthcoming elections in the country in the area under Ward 12, Onitsha, and urged the court to restrain the commission from doing so.

According to the plaintiffs, in all the censuses conducted by the National Population Commission, NPC, the area was counted as falling within the territory of Nkwelle Ezunaka in Oyi local government area without any protest or challenge from anybody and wondered why INEC should cede the area to Onitsha.

Besides, the plaintiffs said the area  in question was administered under the Anambra Judicial Division Holden at Otuocha and Oyi Magisterial District Holden at Nteje, while the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing had in a letter dated April 13, 2010, restated that the Federal Housing Estate located in the area was in Nkwelle Ezunaka.

They also said that even the Central Police Station in Onitsha had no territorial authority over the area, adding that it amounted to grave injustice to make votes of residents of the area go to Onitsha, instead of their people in their own constituency.

The presiding judge, Justice Peter Olayiwola, fixed hearing for today after the counsel to the parties had submitted their written addresses.

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