The All Progressives Congress (APC) on Tuesday suffered a minor setback in its bid to stop one of its governorship aspirants from seeking redress in court.
An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court refused the request of the APC and other defendants to dismiss a request by a governorship aspirant of the party, Victor Ochie, seeking the nullification of the September 30 primaries conducted in the state.
Mr Ochie had asked the court to nullify the said primaries on the basis of the fact that a list of delegates regarded by the applicant as unlawful was used during the primaries.
Mr Ochie, through his lawyer, Ahmed Raji, accused the national leadership of the party of undue interference and violation of the orders of a court.
He argued that he had been denied the right to partake in the governorship primaries, despite paying the nomination fee of N22.5 million.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1085/2018, Mr Ochei joined INEC, APC and Great Ogboru, the governorship candidate of APC as first, second and third respondents respectively.
All the defendants filed notices of preliminary objection to oppose the suit, citing several grounds and urged the court to dismiss the suit.
Delivering judgement, the presiding judge, Nnamdi Dimgba, held that the court has jurisdiction to hear the matter.
Mr Dimgba noted that there was an agreement among party members which resulted in a consent judgement given by Justice A. I Chikere of the Federal High Court, Abuja on June 19, 2018.
According to Mr Dimgba, by virtue of section 287(3) of the 1999 constitution as amended, “this section makes a decision of a High court enforceable”, adding that the court has a primary obligation to enforce its orders.
Mr Dimgba said the objection by the defendants has no merit and thereby dismissed it.
The court noted that the facts and circumstances of the case arose from party primaries and that section 87(4) of the Electoral Act provides for use of delegates list in such primaries.
By not using the list sanctioned by the consent judgement of Justice Chikere, the court was of the view that a political party cannot desecrate orders of the court.
Consequently, in accordance with section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, “this suit is meritorious. There is no merit in the contention by the 1st defendant in its notice of preliminary objection that the suit does not show reasonable cause of action.”
Mr Dimgba also added that there was a prima facie case against INEC, which supervised the said controversial primaries being challenged.
“There was a reasonable cause of action, and in summary, the NPO fails and is dismissed.”
In the APC’s notice of preliminary objection challenging the order for accelerated hearing made by the court in the absence of the 2nd and 3rd defendants, the court held that the argument was “unlawful, holds no water and summarily dismissed.”
Consequently, the court refused APC’s plea to set aside the order of abridgement because of the time-sensitive nature of the issue.
On the argument of APC that the issue was an internal affair of the party and that its constitution says nobody should go to court, Justice Dimgba said, “that submission is a proposition that deserves summary dismissal.”
Mr Dimgba held that Order 22 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court does not apply to the case as relied upon by APC, saying, “They should have come by way of seeking transfer of the case and not to challenge the court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter.”
The objection raised by Mr Ogboru and that of the other defendants were virtually the same, forcing the court to equally dismiss them.
The only ground of objection sustained by the court was the argument of the defendants that the suit was wrongfully commenced by way of originating summons.
Mr Dimgba agreed with the objection because he noticed conflicting depositions in the various affidavits filed by parties.
He held that the matter was not to be determined based on material affidavits but by way of writ of summons.
He, therefore, directed parties to file their pleadings and claims within the stipulated time and adjourned to January 23 for hearing.