Edo PDP PRIMARY: Conflicting court orders over Obaseki

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Edo PDP PRIMARY: Conflicting court orders over Obaseki
Godwin Obaseki

…Port-Harcourt court stops him, Benin court clears him

…PDP drags Justice Obile before NJC, says he played into hands of politicians

…If PDP is not careful with Edo, crisis in APC would be child’s play —Wike

…INEC insists on June 27 deadline for primaries

…Court didn’t stop Obaseki from participating in PDP primary — Party officials

By Clifford Ndujihe, Egufe Yafugborhi, Henry Ojelu, Ozioruva Aliu, Dirisu Yakubu, & Davies Iheamnachor

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki’s participation in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governorship primary billed for tomorrow, received two conflicting orders, yesterday. While a Federal High Court, Port Harcourt barred him from taking part, an Edo State High Court, sitting in Ekpoma, cleared him for the exercise.

The Federal High Court,  Port Harcourt, order   generated divergent views in the polity.

Presiding judge of the Ekpoma High Court, Justice J. O. Okeaya-Inneh, in a suit filed by Felix Irioh and Tom Irehobhude, said: “I find in my humble view that the applicants have satisfied the guidelines for the grant of the orders sought as enjoined in the celebrated landmark case of Kotoye v CBN (1989), 1 NWLR PT. 98, 419 at 441.

“The balance of convenience is in favour of the 1st and 2nd  applicants and there is no undue delay in bringing this application. It is in that light that I find merit in this application.”

The defendants in the suit are Dr. Tony Aziegbemi, the PDP, Hon. Andy Ikhajiangbe, Peter Akhimien and INEC.

The applicants sought “an Order of Interim Injunction restraining INEC from however refusing to recognize and/or accept the name of any of the aspirants named in paragraph 2 above especially Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki as lawful aspirants having been lawfully screened and cleared by the 2nd Defendant to participate in the 2nd primary election scheduled to hold on the 25th June, 2020 in any report of the monitoring of the said primaries pending the hearing of the Motion On Notice.”

The judge adjourned the matter to July 1, 2020, for hearing of pending applications.

Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are cracking a tough nut to ensure that the party’s governorship primary in Edo, tomorrow, holds with Governor Godwin Obaseki participating. Some governors and leaders of the party, met yesterday in Benin to reconcile all interests in Edo especially those aggrieved over the special waiver granted Obaseki following his defection to PDP, last Friday, from the All Progressives Congress, APC.

The  major reason for the parley was  an order of a Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, restraining Obaseki from taking part in the primary. The suit was filed by Hon. Omoregie  Ogbeide-Ihama, one of the three PDP aspirants, who refused to step down for Obaseki.

One of the outcrops of the reconciliation parley, was a warning by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who pulled out of the reconciliation process and warned that if the PDP did not handle the Obaseki issue carefully its crisis would be worse than that of the APC. Wike’s angst arose from suspicion that he had a hand in the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the primary because it was given in Port Harcourt.

At the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, the plaintiff, Moregie Ogbeide-Ihama, had sought an order of Intrim Injunction restraining the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 Defendants from allowing the 8 Defendant or any member or non-member other than those that have purchased Forms and were screened within the time stated in the said election Timetable, to contest the 7 Defendant’s Primary Election rescheduled to hold on 25 June, for the purpose of nominating or electing It’s candidate for the year 2020 Governorship Election In Edo State pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on notice for Interlocutory Injunction.

Meanwhile, PDP leaders assured that the issues would be resolved politically and amicably before the primary tomorrow.

To navigate the issues, the PDP has dragged Justice Emmanuel Adema Obile before the National Judicial Council, NJC, for granting the order restraining Obaseki from take part in the PDP primary. The action of the Judge elicited divergent views from senior lawyers.

This came as a High Court of Justice in Ekpoma Judicial Division, Edo State restrained the PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and others, from “removing, preventing or purporting to exclude the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki or any of other aspirants who has been cleared by the party from participating in the gubernatorial primary slated for 25th June, 2020.”

On the same, the electoral umpire asked all political parties contesting the September 19 governorship election to conclude their primaries on or before June 25.

If PDP is not careful with Edo,  APC crisis would be child’s play —Wike

Warning the PDP to be careful on the Obaseki issue, Wike said some members of the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, are acting as tax collectors.

Wike who gave the warning in Port Harcourt also announced his pull out of the process of reconciling attendant divisions in Edo Chapter of the PDP, accusing some National Working Committee (NWC) members of sycophancy and blackmail against his person.( ( He said: “I told them that in Edo State, we must handle the issue carefully and carry everybody along. They must respect human beings and not behave like tax collectors. They said because an order was obtained from a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, then I am responsible. I have had sleepless nights to resolve the issue in Edo. The Governors of Edo, Adamawa, and Delta states know what I have done to resolve the issues. As a result of this senseless accusation, I have pulled out of Edo State settlement.’’

The Governor said his integrity matters most on the matter, adding that he has directed his lawyer to write a national daily on a publication allegedly made against him on Tuesday. Alleging connivance between PDP NWC and the said newspaper against him, Wike said: “They (NWC) are tax collectors. Let them challenge me and I will come out with facts. Nobody will rubbish me by raising false accusations against me. I will fight back.”

Dissociating self from further participation in any reconciliation, the Governor wondered why PDP NWC now wants to consult Governors of the party, questioning why the NWC did not consult with governors in the case of Bayelsa State. ( ( He further stated, “I am brought up not to accept injustice, and that is why I keep speaking out on national issues. Nobody in PDP can intimidate Rivers State. Nobody can threaten me because I said things must be done constitutionally. I will always continue to satisfy my conscience. From now on, I want to concentrate on the development of Rivers State.”

INEC insists on June 27 deadline for primaries

To ensure  seamless poll on September 19, the INEC in a statement by  National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Dr Festus Okoye, said there would be no extension of the June 27 deadline for conclusion of primaries. It also warned that the preavailingsalad of court cases  could hurt the election.

The statement read in part: ‘’The Independent National Electoral Commission  met today, the 23rd June 2020 and deliberated on a range of issues including the ongoing conduct of Party Primaries relating to the Edo Governorship election slated for the 19th September 2020, the Court Orders emanating from the administration of political parties and conduct of the primaries, as well as the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Officials on Electoral Duty.

Party primaries

‘’The Commission notes that the conduct of party primaries, including resolution of disputes arising therefrom will end on Saturday 27th June 2020, while the submission of the list of candidates the parties propose to sponsor at the election and affidavits of validly nominated candidates will close at 6pm on Monday 29th June 2020.’

‘’In view of this and as part of its commitment to deepen the use of technology in elections, the Commission will conduct a training programme for Liaison Officers nominated by all the registered Political Parties on the use of the INEC Portal for uploading nomination forms of candidates. The training will take place at the Conference Hall of the Commission on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th June 2020 in two batches, to allow for physical distancing in line with the COVID-19 protocols.

Court Orders

‘’Political Parties should note that the organisation and scheduling of various activities and processes leading to the conduct of elections are complex and involve extensive and careful planning and any disruption of these processes comes at a huge cost to the nation. The spate and tenor of pre-election litigation and the conflicting orders emanating therefrom can harm the smooth conduct of primaries and the upcoming elections. The Commission is closely monitoring the cases arising from the administration of political parties, the conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates. This notwithstanding, the Commission restates its avowed commitment to continue to obey all orders and judgement from properly constituted courts in accordance with the rule of law. ‘’

PDP wants Justice Obile sanctioned

The defendants in the suit are: Prince Uche Secondus, Emmanuel Ogidi, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, Chief Debekeme Boyleyefa, Senator James Manager, Hon. Barr. Ajibola Muraina, People Democratic Party, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Faulting Justice Obile’s action, which restrained Obaseki and asked the governor, the PDP and others affected in the suit to appear tomorrow in Port Harcourt for hearing, the PDP in a letter by Dakzel Longi Shamnas dated June 23, 2020, to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council, NJC, Mohammed Tanko titled: “Petition Against Hon. Justice E. A. Obile of the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court in Respect of Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/6, noted that  “the Plaintiff in the above suit at the behest of some external forces has surreptitiously filed an action at the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court seeking to prevent the said Governor Obaseki from participating in the said election. In respect of the said suit, we note that Hon. Justice E. A. Obile did not approach the matter with circumspection. His Lordship thereby played into the hands of unscrupulous politicians, notwithstanding the following red flags:

The letter read in part: “The subject matter of the suit is the gubernatorial primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party, therefore the PDP is the principal defendant as it would be most affected by any order to be made by the court. The headquarters of the PDP is in Abuja. The screening of candidates for the gubernatorial election which the Plaintiff is complaining of in the suit took place in Abuja. The headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is in Abuja. On the other hand, the primary election is to take place in Benin City; and the 8th Defendant (Governor Godwin Obaseki) sought to be restrained from contesting the primary election is also based in Benin City. Thus, there is no nexus between the facts of this matter and Port Harcourt.

“The Plaintiff lives in Benin City. His address in the affidavits in support of his motions for substituted service and interim injunction is 14 Adesogbe Road, Benin City, Edo State. But he went to Port Harcourt to file the suit when there is a Federal Hugh Court in Benin City. This should have made  Justice E.A. Obile to be cautious.

“The Headquarters of the PDP is not in Port Harcourt and the Rivers State Chapter of the PDP is not involved in conducting the primary election in issue, so the Port Harcourt Division of Federal High Court has no connection whatsoever with the subject matter of this suit but just chosen to make it impossible for the Defendants to have appearance before the court and to have fair hearing in the matter.”

Accordingly, the PDP advised the Chief judge of the Federal High Court to “reassign the suit to a Judge of the Federal High Court sitting at the Abuja Division of the Court; and immediate disciplinary action be commenced against Hon. Justice E.A. Obile of the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court for invidiously assuming jurisdiction and taking sides in the political conflict in Edo State with a view to disrupting the political process.”

Court didn’t stop Obaseki from participating in PDP primary – Party official

A member of the PDP  NWC,  has urged the public to dismiss the “false report” purportedly barring  Obaseki from participating in its Thursday’s governorship election primaries.

The NWC member who pleaded anonymity said the report got it wrong, arguing that what was said was that both parties should attend the court today (Wednesday) for hearing on the matter.

When contacted for his reaction, PDP nNtional Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus declined comment on the issue, noting that the matter was before the court.

“The chairman is a democrat and a believer in the rule of law. Since the matter is before the court, he would rather choose to keep his peace on the issue for now,” one of his aides said.

Case against Obaseki’ll be resolved, says ex-PDP spokesman

Former Publicity Secretary of the party in Edo, Hon Nosa Adams said the crisis would be settled internally and Obaseki would be part of the exercise.

He told Vanguard on phone yesterday: “The court said they should serve the parties, court gave orders that the parties should be served by substituted means so they are going to court tomorrow but by the grace of God we are settling. It will not affect the primary election by the grace of God.

“We will settle, we are all one, we are in the same party, Obaseki is part of the family of the PDP, we will resolve our matter internally, it will be resolved and PDP will be better for it, it will be resolved and PDP will be better for it so nobody should rejoice, there is nothing negative about it. At the end of the day it is a disagreement among family members and it will be resolved amicably so the plan for the primary will hold, nothing will stop it.”

Special Adviser to Governor Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie said the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, did not bar Obaseki from participating in the PDP primary.

He said the judge, E. A Obile, however, did not grant that prayer. The judge asked that the motion seeking to bar Mr Obaseki be served on the defendants including Mr Obaseki via newspaper publication.

Mr Obaseki joined the Peoples Democratic Party on Friday after he was disqualified by his former party, APC, from seeking re-election allegedly for submitting questionable certificates.

Senior lawyers express divergent views

Speaking on the issue, Dr  Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, said:  I wondered why the action should be in  Port Harcourt as the most natural forum is certainly Benin. I cannot speculate as to why the action was brought in Port Harcourt, unless the claimant believes there is an advantage, but I must assume the integrity of the presiding Port Harcourt judge, will ensure fairness.’’

Also, Sebastine Hon, SAN, said: ‘’For me, the paramount issue is that of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has in some past decisions nullified orders of Federal High Courts which were secured outside the States housing those Courts, on the ground that such orders were the products of forum shopping. Now, there is a Federal High Court in Benin, hence the Port Harcourt Division of that Court lacks the forum competence to adjudicate on the suit. Secondly, I strongly believe that the plaintiff’s suit is not only premature; it is predicated on arid politics. The law is well settled that courts of law lack jurisdiction to entertain both premature and political questions. A cause of action would only arise if the primary election takes place and the plaintiff is aggrieved thereby. That’s the essence of section 87(10) of the Electoral Act. Those orders should simply be set aside and the suit thrown out on the return date.’’

To Lawal Pedro, SAN: ‘’A Federal High Court order stopping Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo from participating in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primary, is in my view interference in the internal affairs of a political party by the court.  The dispute before the court bothers on conflict between private right of Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, one of the PDP aspirants for the governorship ticket on one hand and the public right of the generality of the Party who had given a waiver to Obaseki and Philip Shuaibu, his deputy, to run on its platform. The court should have exercised restrain in granting the exparte injunction and grant accelerated hearing of the application for injunction since Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama is not being prevented in participating in the primary.

On his part, Solo Akuma, SAN, said ‘’It is clear forum shopping; besides the order is, with respect, reckless.’’

Vanguard

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Source: Vanguard

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