Court Gives PDP Four Days to Respond to Suit against Primary

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Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday ordered the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to file all its processes within four days in a suit seeking the court’s order to halt its presidential primary slated for May 28, 2022.

Justice Okorowo gave the order while delivering ruling in an application for abridgment of time, as well as accelerated hearing in the suit filed by an aggrieved aspirant and member of the PDP, Chief Cosmas Ndukwe.

Ndukwe, a former Deputy Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, had on April 28 brought an ex-parte application for an order of injunction restraining the PDP from proceeding with its scheduled primary election pending the hearing and determination of his suit challenging the position of the party on the issue of zoning of the party’s presidential ticket.

Defendants in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2022 are PDP, its National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu; PDP’s National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu; and the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) as first to fourth respectively.

However, rather than granting the application to halt the planned primary, Justice Okorowo ordered that the PDP should appear before it on May 5 and show cause why the court should not accede to the plaintiff’s demand.

When the matter came up last Thursday, hearing in the matter could not go on following complaints by the counsel to the plaintiff, Paul Erokoro (SAN), that he was just served with the affidavit of the PDP relating to the court’s order to show cause why the primary should not be stopped.

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Erokoro subsequently asked for time to respond and was granted since the counsel to the PDP, Mahmud Magaji (SAN) did not object to the request for adjournment.

Justice Okorowo subsequently shifted hearing to May 10 and ordered parties to file and exchange their processes in the suit.

When the matter came up on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, while Mr Mahmud Magaji (SAN) announced appearance for the first defendant, Mr Abdullahi Aliyu (SAN) and Mr Kalu Agu announced appearance for the second and third defendants respectively.

Both Aliyu and Agu complained to the court that they were yet to be served with the suit as ordered by the court.
When efforts were made to serve them in court, while Aliyu accepted service on behalf of the second defedant, Agu declined, claiming he was not given such instructions from his client.

Accordingly, Justice Okorowo granted an order of substituted service on the third defendant, which the court held should be pasted at the Wadata office complex of the defendants in Wuse, Abuja.

However, the defendants opposed the application for abridgment of time and accelerated hearing, claiming that there was nothing urgent about the case of the plaintiff, adding that the plaintiff has nothing to lose if the party goes ahead with the scheduled presidential primary because the action of the party can also be nullified by the court if found to be taken on a faulty steps.

While they argued further that it would be unfair to give the plaintiff 14 days to file the suit and reduce their own time of response, the defendants stated that abridging their time would amount to “tying their hands to the back”, while expecting them to respond.

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The counsel to the third defendant, Agu, further claimed that it would not be in the interest of justice for the court to abridge time when his client was yet to be served with the suit.

However, delivering ruling, Justice Okorowo agreed with the counsel to the plaintiff that time is of the essence and it is necessary to hear the matter so as to resolve the rights of parties.

He explained that this is so because all parties acknowledged that the party has fixed its primary for May 28, to elect its stsndard-bearer in the 2023 presidential election slated for February 25.

The judge also agreed with the submissions that all motions including the one challenging jurisdiction be heard and ruling or judgment delivered on them alongside the main suit.

Justice Okorowo subsequently directed that the first and second respondents file their responses within the next four days, while the third and fourth file theirs four days from the date of service and the plaintiff respond within two days.

He subsequently adjourned to May 18 for parties to adopt their final addresses.

Ndukwe, in the main suit, is challenging the decision of the party not to zone its presidential ticket in line with the party’s constitution.

Meanwhile, speaking with journalists shortly after the ruling, Agu said his client would immediately appeal the ruling because he was not given fair hearing before the time for hearing the suit was abridged.

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