Uncertainty in Abia over PDP guber ticket as Orji, Ikonne know fate soon
* Concerned lawyers raise concerns
By Steve Oko
Uncertainty, frenzy, apprehension and anxiety all run high among members and stakeholders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Abia State as the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri, is set to decide the fate of the party’s governorship candidate, Professor Uche Ikonne.
This is following the appeal by one of the contestants for the tickets, Hon. Sampson Orji who wants the PDP ticket stripped from Ikonne who he alleged, was not a product of transparent primary.
Hon. Sampson Orji popularly known as SCOURJ, had initially dragged the party, Ikonne, and the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, to the Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia, seeking the nullification of the May 25, 2022 PDP governorship primary election.
According to him, the exercise was marred with monumental irregularities and lack of due process.
Unfortunately, the Federal High Court Umuahia presided over by Justice Evelyn Anyadike, on November 30, 2022, dismissed the suit marked FHC/UM/CS/111/2022.
But still in his search for justice Orji, on December 7, 2022, approached the Court of Appeal Owerri, urging it to upturn the High Court judgement.
After hearing the matter, the Appellate court last week, reserved judgement for a date to be communicated to all parties involved.
Wawa News Global gathered that judgement could be delivered any time soon to ensure the matter is handled within the stipulated six months according to the new Electoral Act.
Meanwhile, a group known as Concerned Lawyers for Advancement of Democracy, has disagreed with the judgement of the Federal High Court Umuahia, saying it was a miscarriage of justice.
The Thomas Ikechukwu Iko- led group disagreed with the position of the court that the alleged non physical presence of the Appellant at the venue of the primary amounted to withdrawing from the race.
It argued that “Orji proved beyond reasonable doubt that he participated in the election which earned him some votes as published by PDP.”
The group, in a press statement, maintained that “the judgment as delivered by Justice Anyadike has impacted negatively on the democratic tenet because it is hard to reconcile the evidence made available to the judge and the judgment that was delivered.”
Concerned Lawyers for Advancement of Democracy, further argued that the Electoral Act spelt out the process of withdrawing from party primary election, adding that “being absent is not one of them despite the fact that the plaintiff was never absent.”
According to the lawyers, the only way to withdraw from an election primary is through writing a withdrawal letter and submitting to the party “which the Appellant never did.”
It wondered on what must have influenced the trial court to arrive at the judgement it delivered.
“What is worrisome is that the Judge neglected petitions brought before him in contestation of the primary election which was marred by irregularities and cannot produce credible result”.
It accused the PDP of encouraging impunity and lack of internal democracy, while calling on the judiciary to save Nigeria’s democracy from rascality of politicians.
The group further urged the judiciary to help restore public confidence in courts as the last hope of common man, arguing that travesty of justice breeds insecurity and bad governance.
Meanwhile, Orji, in his appeal through his Counsel, Rilwan Idris, urged the Appellate court to set aside the Umuahia Federal High Court judgement.
He, also, sought an order dismissing the motion on notice by the first and second Respondents (PDP, and Ikonne) for extension of time in respect to their counter affidavits to the originating summons dated September 26, 2022, and filed September 28.
The ex-lawmaker in the appeal sighted by Vanguard also sought “an order pursuant to Section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act, CAP. C36, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, granting the reliefs sought in the Appellant’s originating summons filed on June 7, 2022.”
Orji, in his grounds of appeal, argued that the trial court erred in judgement when it held that:”the lone issue is whether this Honourable court has the power to grant the Defendants extension of time with which to file their preliminary objections and counter affidavits to the originating summons considering the circumstances of this case”.
He faulted the decision of the court on the grounds that “the subject matter of the suit is a pre-election matter, and the court lacks the jurisdiction to make an order of extension of time.”
Orji further contended that “the principle of law established in the case of CHINDA Vs INEC (2019), which is binding on the trial court is to the effect that the court does not have the powers to order extension of time in pre-election matters”.
He also argued that the trial court erred in law when it held that he failed to exhibit any document in proof of his protest to the Electoral Panel of the PDP against the exclusion of statutory delegates and the use of invalid list of ad-hoc delegates during the primary election.
The former Leader Abia State House of Assembly said his protest against the exclusion of statutory delegates from voting at the primary started at the venue of the primary on May 25, 2022, adding that he followed it up with protest letters dated May 26, and 29 respectively.
He faulted the trial court for holding that besides having been screened and cleared for the primary, he failed to show that he “actually and physically” participated in the exercise by being present at the venue of the primary.
Orji said he never at any time withdrew from the governorship race, challenging anyone with proof of his withdrawal or resignation letter as required by the Electoral Act to show proof.
The former Commissioner for Industry also said that the trial court erred when it held that the third defendant ( the Independent National Electoral Commission), was duly notified of the PDP congress; and further faulted the court’s position that it was only INEC that could complain on whether or not the notice met the mandatory 21 days required by law.
The trial court had declared that:”The plaintiff not being the third defendant whose duty it lies to monitor same cannot be heard to complain”.
Orji argued that “the issuance of a proper notice for the conduct of a party congress is a mandatory and statutory requirement of the Electoral Act”, maintaining that failure to comply with the clause, amounts to non- compliance with the entire Act.
He insisted that being a party affected by the conduct of the primary, he had right to complain.
Orji, further on the grounds of his appeal, disagreed with the trial court that he failed to state what number of delegates constituted quorum, saying that affidavits in his originating summons clearly established that the quorum was not formed.
He also disagreed with the trial court that he contradicted himself on the total number of statutory delegates to the primary, arguing that Exhibit marked ” SCOURJ 2″, and not “exhibit 1” was a copy of a list of 2,200 statutory delegates.
The aspirant further said that “PDP is not a public authority and that exhibit SCOURJ 2 , and (not exhibit 1 relied upon by the court), was not made by a public body to require the mandatory certification of the document before it could be admissible.”
He averred that he had clearly established by probable evidence that the total number of votes returned was less than one third of the number of statutory delegates at the primary.
Be that as it may, the rumour over the health status of the PDP governorship candidate who has not been seen in public since November 2022 after his public presentation at the Umuahia Township Stadium, has become a source of worry among party faithful.
Besides party members, Abians and the general public are becoming increasingly curious about the true situation of things concerning the health of the former Vice Chancellor.
Steve Oko, Publisher/C.E.O, WaWa News Global. For more information on advert placement and news coverage, contact us on: 08038725600, or via email email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org Always read WaWa News Global - Your most dependable online news platform for the latest breaking news in Nigeria.