A Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, on Friday, adjourned a suit filed by Sir Siminlalayi Fubara, Rivers Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s Governor-elect and his deputy, Dr. Ngozi Odu, over alleged plan by the party to suspend them for judgment.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a short ruling, fixed April 20 for judgment after Fubara’s counsel, Dr. Joshua Musa, SAN, and Mr. Johnson Usman, SAN, who represented the PDP and its executives, adopted their processes and presented their arguments for and against the suit.
Justice Ekwo also fixed April 20 for judgment in a suit filed by the Cross Rivers PDP governorship candidate, Sen. Sandy Onor, and his running mate, Ambrose Emana, against the party and its executives over allegations bordering on planned suspension.
In a related development, the judge fixed the same date for a ruling on a motion moved by Musa, seeking an order to amend their originating summons in another suit filed by the Rivers PDP Chairman, Amb. Desmond Akawo against the party, its National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which was opposed to by Usman.
Upon resumed hearing on Friday, Usman informed the court that the PDP wrote a letter to the Chief Judge (CJ) of FHC, Justice John Tsoho, asking that the case be reassigned to another judge.
The senior lawyer said that Justice Ekwo was copied in the letter.
He said the letter, dated March 14, was received by the CJ on March 15.
NAN reports that the PDP letter prayed Justice Tsoho for the transfer of all the three cases currently before Justice Ekwo and its other cases to other judges.
The party cited loss of confidence and bias as grounds for the application.
But Musa opposed the application, saying he was unaware of such letter.
He argued that such administrative letter cannot serve as a stay of proceeding since no response had been received from the CJ regarding the letter.
The judge, who said he had not seen the letter, said he got to know about the development through social media.
Ekwo, however, directed the parties to proceed in the matter having not received any communication in that regard.
And after the counsel adopted their processes, the judge adjourned the first two cases for judgment and fixed Akawo’s suit for ruling.
Fubara, Onor, Akawo and others had filed three separate suits against the PDP and others.
In a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/123/2023, which was filed by Fubara, Odu, and 48 others, the plaintiffs listed PDP, its National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Committee (NEC) as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively.
Also joined in the suit are the PDP National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu; National Secretary, Sen. Samuel Anyanwu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as 4th to 6th respondents respectively.
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The 50 plaintiffs sought an order of injunction restraining the 1st to 5th defendants from suspending, expelling or in any manner do any act that would tamper with their fundamental rights.
They said these rights were guaranteed under Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Articles 10 and 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, CAP. AQ, Laws of the Federation, 2004.
They also sought an order of injunction restraining INEC from according any recognition to any suspension or expulsion or any other act(s) of the 1st to 5th respondents designed to violate their fundamental rights.
They prayed the court to declare that the threat to suspend, expel or tamper with their rights as members of PDP and its candidates at the general elections on account of the disagreement between the party’s national executives and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers where they hail from amounted to a denial of their rights.
Also in their originating motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/215/2023, Sen. Onor and Emana, sued the PDP and the five respondents.
They equally sought the same prayers as Fubara and his deputy-elect.
They urged the court to declare that the threat to suspend, expel or tamper with their rights as members of the party and its candidates in the March 18 general elections on account of the disagreement between the party’s executives and Governor Wike who was perceived to have a relationship with them amounted to a denial of their rights.
The PDP and its executives, in a notice of preliminary objection filed by their lawyer, Mr. Usman, urged the court to dismiss the two suits for being incurably defective and fatally incompetent.
Giving five grounds, Usman argued that the suits were incurably incompetent and ought to be struck out, in that the suit was not justiciable.
The senior lawyer said the suits constituted an abuse of court process as the matter dealt with internal and domestic matter of a political party.
He said the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain, hear and determine the matter being an intra-party matter dealing with membership of a political party.
Usman, argued that the 3rd and 4th respondents (the NEC and Ayu) were non-juristic persons.
He said the suits were pre-mature and incompetent, the plaintiffs having not exhausted the internal mechanism of the party as provided by Article 61 (1) (2) of the PDP Constitution (As Amended in 2017).
Also in the counter affidavit filed by the party, the lawyer submitted that the plaintiffs had no reasonable cause of action against the respondents.
He also said that there was no right guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution that prevented the party from exercising disciplinary powers over its erring members.
Usman, who urged the court to dismiss the suit in the interest of justice, prayed the court to award a substantial cost against the plaintiffs.
Akawo’s suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/112/23, sought an order restraining the PDP and INEC from dissolving the Rivers State Executive Committee, Local Government Executive Committee and the Ward Executive Committee until May 22, 2024, when their four-year term would have been served out, among others. (NAN)