Zoning: Courtto hear suit seeking to stop PDP's presidential primary May 10 - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Zoning: Courtto hear suit seeking to stop PDP's presidential primary May 10

By Our Correspondent

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has slated May 10 to hear the suit seeking to halt the scheduled primary elections of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, following its alleged refusal to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the South East region.

The court, presided over by Justice Donatus Okorowo, okayed the matter for hearing, after it gave the plaintiff the nod to file processes to counter a preliminary objection the PDP raised against the suit.

PDP, had through its team of lawyers led by Mr. Mahmud Magaji, SAN, challenged the jurisdiction of the court meddle in what it termed as its domestic affair.

It equally queried the powers of the court to summon it to respond to the suit, which was filed by one of its presidential aspirants, Mr. Cosmas Ndukwe.

The party maintained that the court lacked the vires to delve into its internal affairs, stressing that the subject matter of the case, which borders on whether to zone its presidential ticket to any part of the country or not, was not an issue that the court was constitutionally empowered to adjudicate upon.

It, therefore, urged the court to vacate its earlier order that directed it to show cause why reliefs the plaintiff is seeking in the suit, should not be granted.

Justice Okorowo had on the strength of an ex-parte application and an affidavit of urgency that was brought before the court by the plaintiff, ordered the PDP to appear before it to respond to the suit.

At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Thursday, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Paul Erokoro, SAN, told the court that he would need a short time to respond to PDP's preliminary objection against the suit.

His request for an adjournment was not opposed by counsel to the Defendants. 

Consequently, the court adjourned further proceedings in the matter till May 10.

The plaintiff, Ndukwe, who is a former Deputy Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, had in an application he brought before the court, sought an order of injunction to restrain his party 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 its presidential ticket.

Cited as Defendants in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2022, are the PDP, National Chairman of party, Dr Iyorchia Atu, Chairman of PDP Primary Election Planning Committee/National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Though the court declined to grant the restraining order, it directed the plaintiff to put all the Defendants on notice to enable them to appear before it to show cause.

In its swift objection to the suit, PDP, aside from challenging jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit, argued that the case had become status barred.

According to the defendants, “the cause of action in the suit relates to the internal affairs of a political party and therefore falls within the doctrine of political questions which are non-justiciable” and as such,, the court lack jurisdiction to entertain it.

PDP, noted that the cause of action arose from a communique its National Zoning Committee issued onApril 5, whereas the plaintiff’s suit, was filed on April 19, 15 days after, in violation of Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which provides for 14 days for filing of such cases.

Likewise, the 3rd defendant in the suit, Senator Anyanwu, also took the matter before the Court of Appeal in Abuja, where he applied for an order to set aside the summon that was issued on the party.

Anyanwu contended that the trial judge erred in law, insisting that Ndukwe's suit was not ripe for hearing as at the time the trial court made the order.

“The learned trial judge erred in entertaining an exparte motion which seeks to stop the presidential primary election of the appellant without hearing notice”, adding that the court further erred in law when it failed to “aver its mind to section 84(15) of the Electoral Act, 2022, before making an order to show cause”, he argued.

It will be recalled that PDP had fixed May 28 for the conduct of its presidential primary election and to that effect, screened the 17 aspirants that obtained its presidential form to contest in the 2023 election.

However, in his suit, Ndukwe, challenged the scheduled presidential primary on the premise that PDP was planning to act in breach of its own constitution on zoning.

He told the court that PDP has a rotation of elective offices in place, and by that arrangement, it ought to be the turn of the Southern part of the country, especially the South East geopolitical zone, to produce the next president.

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