Court dismisses Akwa Ibom PDP members’ suit seeking nullification of state’s primaries

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, dismissed a suit filed by some aggrieved members of Akwa Ibom Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeking the nullification of the state’s primaries conducted between May 22 and May 26.
The primary polls were conducted to elect the party’s candidates for the 2023 House of Assembly, House of Representatives, senatorial and governorship elections.
The aggrieved members, who were plaintiffs in the suit, also sought the order of the court nullifying the outcome of the April 30 ward congress that produced the ad-hoc delegates who voted in the primaries.
The plaintiffs; Mr Friday Iwok and 30 others, had sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the PDP and the elected ad-hoc delegates who emerged from the ward congresses conducted as 1st to 331st defendants respectively.
Delivering judgment, Justice Obiora Egwuatu held that the suit lacked merit.
Justice Obiora said that the plaintiffs, having not participated in the delegates’ election of the party in the state, lacked the locus standi to institute the suit.
According to him, for a party to have a locus standi, he must have participated in the election to which he is contending the outcome.
On the submission of the plaintiffs that the action of the PDP contravened the issue of fair hearing, the judge said that the plaintiffs did not show how their constitutional rights were denied by the party.
Egwuatu said that even though the plaintiffs averred that they purchased the expression of interest and nomination forms to contest in the ward congresses that produced the delegates, he held that the public notice of the party for the election was clear and unbais.
“The notice informed the public that all card-carrying members of the PDP are expected to take part in the elections, expecially those aspiring to be elected as ad-hoc delegates.
“This notice did not exclude any member,” he said.
He said the plaintiffs did not show that the PDP used any criteria to either screen or disqualify any one.
“He who asserts must prove,” he added, quoting sections of the Evidence Act to back his decision.
Egwuatu, who agreed with the plaintiffs that by filing an originating summons to commence their case, the matter was properly filed, however held that the plaintiffs did not show any infraction committed by the party against them.
He, therefore, said that the court had no power to entertain the suit being an issue pertaining to the internal affairs of the party.
“This court lacks jurisdiction to resolve same,” he ruled.
He also agreed with the 2nd defendant (PDP) counsel, Paul Usoro, SAN, that the plaintiffs did not exhaust the party’s internal mechanism to resolve the issue before filing the matter.
“I have earlier said that the plaintiffs lack locus standi and their rights were not breached,” he said.
Justice Egwuatu further said that the plaintiffs had no reasonable cause of action to have filed the matter.
According to him, reasonable cause of action consists of every fact necessary for the commencement of a suit.
“I found that the argument of the defendant is merited and resolve this against the plaintiffs,” he said.
The judge consequently dismissed the suit for lacking in merit.
“I am inclined to agree with counsel to the 2nd defendant (PDP). This suit lacks merit on the whole and accordingly dismissed,” he declared.
Shortly after the proceeding, counsel for the 3rd to 331st defendants, Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN, decsribed the judgment as a welcome development in the country’s justice system.
According to him, we are particularly impressed because many of the points that were raised and determined are novel and recondite, bearing in mind that we are operating a new Electoral Act 2022, which has never been in existence.
“There are new provisions in the Act which have not been interpreted before in previous cases which had made it difficult for the court in ordinary circumstances to decide.
“So what His Lordship has done today is to bring a lot of industries into the matter and generally speaking, it is a judgment that will stand the test of time,” he said.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/606/2022, the plaintiffs want the court to declare the outcome of the ward congress of the party in Akwa Ibom a nullity.
The development followed the PDP’s ward congress organised on April 30 to elect three ad-hoc delegates that would vote in the party primaries.
They alleged that the party schemed them out of the electioneering process, even though they purchased the expression of interest and nominations forms to contest in the ward congress election.
The applicants, however, filed a suit, asking the court to set aside the results of the ward congress.
They alleged that no election was conducted to choose the ad-hoc delegates in the state.
The judge, on May 18, made an order directing parties to maintain a status quo ante bellum pending the hearing and determination of the matter.
But despite the order, the PDP, between May 22 and May 26, conducted its primaries using the said delegates.
The applicants had, on May 15, accused the PDP of flouting the order of the court in going ahead with the just-concluded primary polls in the state despite the court order.
The aggrieved members; through their lawyer, Ahmed Raji, SAN, told Justice Egwuatu that his order made on May 18 was disregarded by the defendants.
Raji, therefore, prayed the court to set aside the primary election which was conducted between May 22 and May 26, having failed to obey the court order which directed parties to maintain a status quo ante bellum.
But lawyer to the PDP, Usoro, and counsel for the 3rd to 131st defendants, Nwoko, disagreed with Raji’s submission.
They argued that having challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter, any order made by the court would amount to an exercise in futility.
But counsel for the INEC, Abdulaziz Sani, SAN, on his part, declared his neutrality in the matter.

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