The Federal High Court in Owerri on Thursday nullified the controversial ward and local government congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State.
Party members loyal to Governor Rochas Okorocha filed the suit.
In a two hours judgement, Justice Lewis Allago said the congresses were never held in the state in the first place.
He therefore ordered the party to conduct fresh ward congresses in the state in line with the guidelines of the party.
“They should go back and conduct fresh congresses in accordance with the constitutions of the party; they should be responsible and save our democracy,” he added
The judge said he relied on the report of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which is the body mandated by the Electoral Act to supervise primaries and congresses of political parties.
According to him, INEC in its report attached as exhibit by the plaintiffs, affirmed that APC congresses were not held in the state.
Mr Allagoa in his ruling dismissed the argument of counsel to the defendants that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi to challenge the conduct of the ward congresses in the state.
He ruled that the plaintiffs having established the fact that they are members of the party and ward chairmen, have the locus standi to challenge the outcome of the ward congresses.
Mr Allagoa also dismissed the argument by counsel to the second and eight defendant, Kelvin Nwufor, that the plaintiffs did not get leave of court to serve the defendants outside the jurisdiction of the court, stating that the Federal High Court has one jurisdiction.
He therefore granted the plaintiffs’ prayers that the court declare as null and void results purported to have emanated from APC Ward Congress in the state as the congress never held across the state.
The plaintiffs who are APC ward chairmen in the originating summon in the suit, No FHC/OW/CS/69/2018, had prayed the court among other reliefs to “issue an order of injunction restraining the defendants by themselves, agents, or privies from announcing or declaring or making reference to non-existing results of the ward congress purportedly claimed to have been released by them as results of the inconclusive ward congress.”
The defendants in the suit include the immediate past APC National Organizing Secretary, Osita Izunaso, the State Chairman of the party, Hilary Eke, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and others.
The suit followed the controversial congress of the party in the state which returned Mr Eke as Chairman.
But the Governor, Rochas Okorocha, whose candidates lost out headed to the court, claiming that there was no ward congress in the state.
In his reaction to the ruling, Mr Okorocha lauded the judgement.
Mr Okorocha in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo , said the judgement has vindicated his stand on the controversial congress.
“Th judgment of the ourt on the issue of APC congresses in Imo has only authenticated my sustained claim and that of patriotic leaders of APC in Imo that the congresses did not hold in the state with a lot of proofs to that effect”
The governor argued further that “the judiciary has remained not only the last hope of the common man, but also the last hope of institutions and processes especially as they concern our democracy”.
He said some former national officers of the party, had for one reason or the other decided to mess up the congresses that would have taken place in the state.
According to him, they also ignored his genuine concern and repeated appeal that the congresses should be conducted to enable party members in the state fully participate and elect officials of their choice.
“Imo is the only APC state in the South-East and should have been encouraged to have successful congresses, to show good example to other states in the geo-political zone.But regrettably those who had the task of conducting free and fair congresses decided to submerge the whole venture for their selfish agenda”, he noted.
The governor commended members of APC in the state for “remaining calm and steadfast for all the time the controversies over the congresses were on and noted that the court has restored the desire of party members to elect officers of their choice at all levels in the state.”
“Anybody determined to play his or her politics in APC must do so in line with the provisions of the party’s constitution and also in line with approved democratic culture and practices”, he concluded.
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