On Wednesday, October 10, 2018, a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, nullified the ward, local government and state congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, held on May 19, May 20 and May 21, 2018.
The Court, presided over by Hon. Justice Chinwendu Nwogu, also nullified all the indirect primaries, which produced Governorship as well as National and State Assembly candidates of the APC in the state.
One Ibrahim Imah and 22 other members of the APC in the state had in May 2018, approached the Court following their inability to be part of the party’s congresses, even after purchasing the forms for the congresses.
Delivering judgement in the suit, Nwogu declared that the congresses were illegal because they were not conducted in line with the APC Guidelines and Constitution.
The presiding judge stated that all actions taken by the APC during the pedancy of the suit have been set aside because they are illegal and unconstitutional.
He declared that all those who purchased nomination forms for the ward congresses were entitled to contest the ward congresses of May 19, 2018, but were unjustly excluded by the party.
Nwogu said: “The Rule by might must be checked by the rule of law. We must restore the hope of the common man in the justice system.”
The judge, who based his judgement on the Amaechi versus INEC matter of 2007, noted that having studied the submissions in the matter, he was bound to make consequential orders to ensure that justice was done in the case.
He stated that the State High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter as an appeal filed by the respondents at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt to stop proceedings on the suit was rejected by the Appellate Court on September 21, 2018.
The judge further stated that all through the hearing, the APC filed no counter-affidavit denying the facts of the matter as presented by the applicants in the originating summons.
Nwogu, who said it is trite law that facts not disputed are deemed admitted, declared that the Abuja High Court is of coordinate jurisdiction with the High Court in Port Harcourt and cannot sit in appeal over it.
To Mr. Henry Bello, counsel to the applicants, the judgement of the Rivers State High Court is a victory for democracy and rule of law.
Bello said: “According to the Constitution, not according to the caprices of the elite, the Court has nullified and set aside the primary elections conducted indirectly by APC on September 29, 2018.”
For Prince Azunda, counsel to the APC, the Rivers State High Court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Azunda said: “Once a preliminary objection relates to jurisdiction, no matter how it is presented, it must be considered by the Court. This is so that the decision of Court conducted without the requisite jurisdiction is a nullity. The judgement that was just delivered is a judgement of nullity.”
Speaking on the development, a governorship aspirant on the APC platform, who is believed to be the brain behind the Prince Peter Odike-led faction of APC, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe,
urged the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC to obey the order of the Rivers State High Court.
Abe said: “Today as we speak judgement has been given on the congresses and the Court has done that which we told you from the beginning that you cannot collect money from people and you don’t allow them to participate. You are not leading well, it will bring well.
“We stand on direct primaries and we want to use this opportunity go appeal to the National Working Committee to stand by the will of the people. We have been in a situation in this state where even when the Courts will speak, people will go to the radio and television and announce that they will not obey the Courts.
“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the All Progressives Congress to respect the decision of the Courts. Those people who voted were not our delegates. They could not have chosen anybody on our behalf. That is why we went and votes by ourselves and those results are there. The national APC should respect it.”
However, Chairman of APC in Rivers State, Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, declared that he remains the Chairman of the party in the state, despite the judgement of the State High Court that nullified all the party’s congresses.
Flag-Amachree, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt said: “Let me state with all authority and for the purposes of clarity that I remain the chairman of APC Rivers state as I have not seen any judgement suggesting otherwise.
“What I know is that on 4th September 2018 Justice A. O. Musa granted a perpetual injunction barring any institution or the national body from tampering with or dissolving my party executives and it will only take an Appeal Court to upturn or set aside that injunction not a court of coordinate jurisdiction
“I therefore enjoin all APC members and party executives at the ward, LGA and State levels to go about their normal party activities and remain calm as I remain the chairman of APC Rivers State.”
Before the statement from the party’s chairman, the Publicity Secretary of APC in the state, Senibo Chris Finebone, addressed a press conference in Port Harcourt, where he declared that the party was not surprised at the verdict of the Rivers State High Court.
Finebone stated that the Court ruling, which coincided with a mega rally organised by the Odike-led faction of the APC in Port Harcourt, has ended a collaboration between Abe and Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wine.
He said: “The Rivers State Chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), is not surprised that a High Court of Rivers State presided over by Justice Chiwendu Worgu, much to our expectation, said it has set aside ward, local government and state congresses of the APC held in May, 2018.
“We state that today’s ruling did not come to us, as a party, by surprise. However, it brings to an end the collaboration between Senator Magnus Abe and Governor Nyesom Wike to destabilise the APC in Rivers State.
“We recall the many overt and covert partnerships between Governor Wike and Senator Magnus Abe using the Rivers State Judiciary on this matter to scuttle the electoral fortunes of the APC in 2019. Today’s ruling is a culmination of such an evil collaboration.
“We further note that the grand rally staged today by Senator Magnus Abe was carefully planned and scheduled by both the Senator and Governor Nyesom Wike to coincide with the Rivers State High Court judgment details of which they were already privy to.
“It was therefore not surprising when Senator Abe gleefully announced the exact ruling of the court on the rally rostrum just about when the judge was still reading his judgment in court.
“We wish to inform APC members and sympathisers of our great party in Rivers State and across Nigeria to remain calm as we are well prepared in anticipation of the ruling and have therefore done the needful.
“Despite aspects of the matter which are already before the Court of Appeal and the Nigerian Supreme Court, the lower court went ahead to decide on a matter that is being challenged at higher courts of the land.
“Indeed, our legal team is already finalising the paperwork to file an appeal on today’s judgment and stay of execution. There is absolutely no cause for alarm.
“It is also important to emphasise that the entire 319 Wards and 23 LGAs EXCOs of the Party are, by implication, protected against the ruling by any court of coordinate jurisdiction with the Abuja High Court that granted the Ojukaye-led State Exco a Perpetual Injunction before today. We urge everyone to go about their duties without let.
“Again, it must be mentioned that if the entire collaboration between Senator Abe and Governor Wike on this matter is to nullify actions the party has taken recently relating to its mandate by seeking to invalidate the Ojukaye-led EXCO, such an exercise has failed.
“For example, the primaries so far conducted in Rivers State were done by the national executives or national leadership of the APC and not essentially by the Ojukaye-led EXCO in Rivers State and seeking to invalidate the Ojukaye-led EXCO cannot in anyway invalidate the primaries.
“We are urging our supporters not to lose sleep as appeal have been entered and stay of execution on the matter have been entered. We commend the Special Adviser to Gov. Wike on Electronic Media, Mr. Simeon Nwankaudu for his efforts at the court today in furtherance of the collabo between Senator Magnus Abe and the Rivers State Government. We also commend the judge for the “industry” put into the process.”
To a chieftain of the APC, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, the judgement of the Rivers State High Court, which nullified the party’s congresses and primaries in Rivers State was premeditated and inconsequential.
Eze, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, said the High Court erred in its judgment on the primaries as it was conducted by a team from the national secretariat of the APC and not the Ojukaye Flag- Amachree-led state working committee of the party.
He said it is only that national leadership of the party that has powers to conduct primaries for Governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly primary elections.
The APC chieftain stated that the Presiding Judge should have known that it was the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party that set up the committee that conducted the primaries in the state.
Eze further stated that the judge forgot to note that the Supreme Court was clear on matters that once a name is sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), no Court can change it not even electoral umpire can stop the candidate.
He advised both party officials and members to stop panicking because the Court didn’t based it’s ruling considering the list of delegates that voted in those primaries as to know who voted and their names.
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