A’Court sets aside verdict nullifying APC candidates in Rivers

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  • Party hails judiciary for standing on path of justice
  • Ex-minister, Nwajiuba, fails to stop Tinubu, Atiku as presidential candidates

An Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt has set aside the judgment of a Federal High Court that sacked the All Progressives Congress governorship candidate, Tonye Cole, national and state assembly candidates.

Uba Group

The Point recalls that a court presided over by Justice Emmanuel Obile had on October 25 in Port Harcourt sacked the candidates of APC following a suit by George Orlu and five others over their claims of exclusion from the party’s delegate congresses.

The Court of Appeal gave the decisions in three separate judgments on an appeal brought by the APC, the governorship candidate of the party, Tonye Cole, and the National and State Assembly candidates, arising from the earlier judgement.

The three-man special panel of the Court of Appeal in their judgment delivered by the lead Judge, Justice Muhammed Lawal-Shaibu said George Orlu and five others did not exhaust the internal party mechanism before instituting the suit.

Lawal-Shaibu held that the respondents did not participate in the congress of the APC and so did not have any cause of action and lacked the locus standi to go to court.

The judge further said it was inconceivable for the Federal High Court Judge not to have joined some candidates of APC who are interested parties in the suit.

The panel said the nomination of delegates and political parties is purely an internal party affair, and that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit ab initio.

He thereby set aside the judgment against the APC and awarded the sum of N500, 000 each for the three cases as cost against the appeal respondents in favour of APC.

In a related situation, in a 15-ground appeal instituted by Senatorial, Federal House of Representatives and State Assembly candidates the court held that the aggrieved defendants at appeal could not exhaust the internal mechanisms as provided by the party’s constitution before going to court.

Lawal-Shaibu said the trial Judge did something strange when it delivered judgement on the preliminary objection of the defence and the substantive matter just to grant all the prayers of the plaintiff.

He said the judge was in a serious error for not going into the merit of the matter, questioning how the court got reasons to deliver its judgement without properly examining the matter.

Justice Lawal-Shaibu said the appeals by APC, Cole and assembly candidates were on merit and are allowed.

Meanwhile, the Rivers State APC 2023 Campaign Council while hailing the judgment, commended the judiciary for standing on the path of justice.

Spokesman of the council, Sogbeye Eli, said the judgement would give Rivers people the opportunity to choose the candidates of their choice at the poll, even as he called on politicians to approach democracy with utmost fairness and a sense of responsibility.

Eli said the APC would commence activities following the judgement, pointing out that the party would not apply to the state to use public schools for its campaigns.

“We will not apply to anybody to use the school. If we do that it amounts to illegality. We are in court challenging it,” Eli said.

In another development, a Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a suit by former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba and the Incorporated Trustees of Rights for All International against the All Progressives Congress, Peoples Democratic Party and their presidential candidates.

In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/942/2022, Nwajiuba and RAI had sought among others, to void the primaries that produced Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar as candidates of the APC and PDP for the next presidential election respectively.

“CBN"

They also prayed the court to replace Tinubu with the ex-Minister, who said he participated in APC’s primary and scored zero votes.

The defendants in the suit were the APC, PDP, Tinubu, Abubakar, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Nwajiuba, who purchased the APC presidential form for N100 million, but polled only one vote at the June 8 primary, had accused Tinubu of bribing delegates with dollars.

The plaintiffs also attached as evidence a video recording showing the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, lamenting that delegates to the APC primary sold their votes.

Based on the evidence, Nwajiuba and RAI presented 25 issues for determination by the court.

Specifically, the ex-minister asked the court to determine whether the composition of the delegates contravened Article 11(A) 12(1) and 13(1) of the constitution of the APC.

The ex-minister also asked the court to determine if the composition of the delegates at the PDP primary contravened Section 33(1) and (5) (c) of the constitution of the party.

The plaintiffs prayed the court to determine whether having regards to the clear unambiguous and express provisions and tenor of Sections 6(6) (A) (B) and (C) read alongside Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution, the court has the inherent judicial powers to nullify, cancel and declare as illegal the Presidential primaries of the APC and the PDP.

Nwajiuba asked the court to determine if all the votes cast in favour of Tinubu and Atiku at the special national convention of the APC and PDP are illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever on the grounds of corruption and selling of delegate votes and voter inducement.

Lastly, the ex-minister prayed the court to decide if having regards to the express provisions of paragraphs 1 and 8 of the 5th schedule of the 1999 Constitution, the corrupt conducts of the “third defendant (Tinubu) and the 4th defendant (Atiku) in buying votes and corruptly inducing delegates with dollars and naira in various sums to secure their votes at the special national convention… disqualifies them from further seeking, contesting and holding the office of the President.”

Consequently, the ex-minister sought 26 reliefs including an order that the composition of delegates at the APC and the PDP was not properly constituted.

Specifically, Nwajiuba asked the court to rule that Atiku and Tinubu along with their agents bribed delegates with dollars and the votes they got should be declared illegal.

In a judgment on Thursday, Justice Inyang Ekwo declined jurisdiction on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi to have filed the suit.

Justice Ekwo, who also described the suit as incompetent, proceeded to dismiss it and condemned the involvement of RAI, which claimed to be a non-government organisation, in politically motivated cases.