The Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti on Friday dismissed a suit challenging conduct of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ward Congress in Ekiti State by the National Working Committee(NWC).
Delivering her judgement, Justice Uche Agomoh, dismissed the suit instituted against the Haruna Mani-led PDP Congress Committee, a group loyal to Senator Biodun Olujimi and upheld the preliminary objection raised concerning the suitability of the case.
The court held the case was not justiciable on the ground that it was as a matter that emanated from intra-party affairs.
The case with suit number FHC/AD/ CS 14/2020 filed by one Olalekan Oladimeji and others urged the court to nullify the Congress conducted by Haruna Mani-led PDP Committee, on the premise that the 1st and 4th defendants breached the provisions of the PDP and 1999 constitutions as well as the 2010 Electoral Act as amended.
Joined in the suit were: the PDP(1st defendant), Independent National Electoral Commission(2nd), Inspector General of Police (3rd), Taraba State Deputy Governor and Chairman of the Congress Committee, Haruna Mani(4th) and Chairman of the Congress appeal Committee, Chief Olusola Akanmode and others (5th).
The litigants, through an originating summon sought whether the Congress conducted by the NWC followed the guidelines across the 177 wards and whether the 1st and 4th defendants can unilaterally substitute the original names produced in the Congress held on March of 7, 2020 in Ekiti State.
Also sought was a declaration that the Congress that produced the ward chairmen in a congress conducted by Gboyega Oguntuase-led SWC was legal and in line with section 4 chapter 15 of the PDP constitution .
They also averred that hiring of a Notary public to swear in the ward Chairmen by the 1st defendant rather than the party State Chairman was a breach of the 1999 and the party’s constitutions.
But in their counter affidavits, the 1st, 4th and 5th defendants, urged the court to discountenance the reliefs, saying only the NWC has the power to conduct congresses and that the actions taken by the 4th defendant were legal and aligned with the PDP constitution and provisions of the Electoral Act.
They said the principle of fair hearing has been violated on the strength that the ward Chairmen allegedly recognised by the NWC were not joined as defendants.
The defendants also averred that the court also lacked the jurisdictional powers to entertain the case ab initio.
Delivering her verdict on the issue of preliminary objection, the Judge agreed with the argument canvassed by the defendants that the ward chairmen, whose elections were being contested in court were necessary parties and ought to have been joined as defendants in the suit.
She said: “On this issue of non-joinder of the real defendants, I have not seen anything in this relief that will turn the table in favour of the plaintiffs, because the relief is already settled in law.
“The preliminary objection is successful, because it is not justiceable to shut out necessary parties who ought to come to the court to show whether they procured nomination form or not. This deprives them of fair hearing. This suit is hereby dismissed” , she stated.
Justice Agomoh awarded a cost of N200,000 against the plaintiffs, which is to be paid to the 1st, 4th and 5th defendants on or before 1st September, 2020.
However, Agomoh held that the plaintiffs have sufficient evidence to show that they have the locus to institute the case contrary to position maintained by the 1st, 4th and 5th defendants.
She held that the court also has the jurisdiction to entertain the case in line with section 251 of the constitution, saying section 66 can’t fetter the hands of the court or supersedes its statutory powers.
However, in her response, Olujimi said the judgment would be appealed before a Higher Court.
Olujimi’s media aide, Chief Sanya Atofarati, said: “We are appealing the judgment because the court contradicted itself which will require a higher court to reassess, evaluate and give a verdict.
“It is on this basis that Senator Biodun Olujimi is appealing to members of the party to remain calm because the judgment will be contested before the court of appeal,” he said.