Last month Hon Edward Pwajok, SAN and SG Odey, Esq among other eminent legal counsels to the Plateau State chapter of the PDP, filed a 4 point originating summons at the State High Court.
The demands of the claimant(PDP) against the defendants(PLASIEC) include the following: A declaration that any conduct of the local government elections for the various offices of Chairmen and Councilors in Plateau state without the participation of the PDP candidates is null, void and of no effect, an order of mandatory injunction directing the defendants to issue nomination forms to the claimant and its candidates ,and allow them to participate and canvass for votes, an order setting aside any conduct of the LGA elections without the claimant and its candidates, an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants whether by itself, is agents, privies or assigns or any other person excluding the claimant and its candidates in any manner whatsoever from participating and contesting in the election.
At the resumed hearing last week, the PLASIEC through their counsel, in a motion sought for a frivolous excuse to delay the inclusion of the opposition party in the processes leading to the October 9th LGA elections. They posit that the courts are on their usual annual vacation and therefore cannot entertain any suit whatsoever. They even went ahead to demand that the court should not hear the case until after the vacation so as to wickedly seal the fate of the PDP from participating.
But thanks to His Lordship Justice Kunda who rejected that and gave both parties one week to prepare their respective positions and return to the court for final determination.
In a Counter Affidavit and Written Address To PLASIEC Motion Dated and Filed On 3rd August, 2021, the PDP aver that (a)this case is not a regular matter but a pre-election matter;(b) That it is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that guides the time line for the hearing of pre-election matter like the present one and not Rules of Court;(c) That a pre-election matter like the present one can be heard during annual vacation of the court;(d) That the Honourable Court has the competence to hear this matter during the annual vacation of the court not being a regular civil matter(e) That this matter must be heard and determined within 180 days of the filing of same.(f) That the 180 days for the hearing and determination of this case is running notwithstanding the annual vacation of the court;(g) That the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court sit on pre-election matters during their annual vacation because of its sui generis and urgent nature without the consent of parties or an application to list same for urgent hearing.(h) That the courts usually lists such appeals and send hearing notices to parties for hearing to avoid fail of justice that any delay in hearing and determination may occasion.6. That I was in court and represented the claimant/respondent when this case came up for the first time before this Honourable Court on the 27th July, 2021 without objection from the defendant/applicant.7. That at the said sitting of the court, counsel for both parties agreed that by the nature of this case it ought to be heard expeditiously and thus agreed to abridge their various time for filing of processes in the matter consequent upon which the matter was adjourned to 5th August, 2021 for hearing of the notice of preliminary objection and the substantive originating summons in keeping with the urgency of the matter and its special nature.
No doubt, the motion or application was brought by the defendant/applicant in bad faith to frustrate the hearing and determination of this matter expeditiously and to perfect its plans to exclude the claimant/respondent from the forthcoming local government elections in Plateau State. That since it is a notorious fact that the defendant/applicant has fixed 9th October, 2021 for the conduct of local government elections in Plateau State, the claimant/respondent will be greatly prejudiced by the grant of this application. How can PLASIEC file a motion seeking an order of the honorable court to adjourn the hearing of this suit to a date after a long vacation period of the High Court of Plateau State.
The gravamen of the motion is that the court cannot hear this matter during the annual vacation of the court except if the claimant/respondent files an application for urgent hearing or by consent of parties to have the matter heard during vacation. The claimant/respondent has shown by affidavit evidence in opposition to this application that this case being a pre-election matter and therefore not an ordinary civil matter can be heard and determined during the annual vacation of the Honourable Court without having to bring a formal application for urgent hearing. Further to this, the claimant/respondent has shown in its counter affidavit that, even if, Order 49 Rule 5 of the Rules of this Honourable Court is applicable, the defendant/applicant having taken fresh steps in the matter and indeed consented to an accelerated hearing of the matter can no longer complain of non-compliance with the Rules of court regarding filing of an application for urgent hearing because both parties have agreed on the 27th July, 2021 that the case is urgent and it should be heard and determined expeditiously hence the adjournment of the matter with consent of counsel to both parties to the 5th August, 2021 for hearing of the defendant/applicant’s notice of preliminary objection and the claimant/respondent’s notice of preliminary objection.