The Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti on Friday dismissed a suit challenging the conduct of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ward congress in Ekiti State, by the National Working Committee (NWC).
In what seems like a temporary relief to the ward Chairmen who emerged from former Governor, Ayodele Fayose’s faction, the court upheld the preliminary objection raised concerning the ‘justiceability’ of the case.
The defendants in its objection filed against the case instituted by the group loyal to Senator Biodun Olujimi, said the principle of fair hearing has been violated on the strength that the ward Chairmen allegedly recognized by the NWC, were not joined as defendants.
The case with suit number FHC/AD/ CS 14/2020, filed by one Olalekan Oladimeji and others, urged the court to invalidate the Congress conducted by Haruna Mani-led PDP Committee, on the premise that the 1st and 4th defendants breached the provisions of the PDP and 1999 constitutions as well as the Electoral Act.
Joined in the suit were: the PDP (1st defendant), Independent National Electoral Commission (2nd), Inspector General of Police (3rd), Taraba State Deputy Governor and Chairman of the Congress Committee, Haruna Mani (4th) and Chairman of the Congress appeal Committee, Chief Olusola Akanmode and others (5th).
Delivering her verdict on the issue of preliminary objection, Justice N. U. Agomoh, said she agreed with the argument canvassed by the defendants that the ward chairmen, whose elections were being contested in court were necessary parties and ought to have been joined as defendants in the suit.
She said: “On this issue of non-joinder of the real defendants, I have not seen anything in this relief that will turn the table in favour of the plaintiffs, because the relief is already settled in law.
“This preliminary objection is victorious on the strength that the ward Chairmen whose positions were being contested are necessary parties.
“The preliminary objection is successful because it is not justiceable to shut out necessary parties who ought to come to the court to show whether they procured nomination form or not. This deprives them of fair hearing. This suit is hereby dismissed”, the Judge stated.
Justice Agomoh awarded a cost of N200,000 against the plaintiffs, which is to be paid to the 1st, 4th and 5th defendants on or before 1st September, 2020.
However, Agomoh held that the plaintiffs have sufficient evidence to show that they have the locus to institute the case contrary to position maintained by the 1st, 4th and 5th defendants.
She held that the court also has the jurisdiction to entertain the case in line with section 251of the constitution, saying section 66 can’t fetter the hands of the court or supersedes its statutory powers.
Shortly after the Congress, where two factions had emerged, the litigants through an originating summon sought whether the congress conducted by the NWC followed the guidelines across the 177 wards and whether the 1st and 4th defendants can unilaterally substitute the original names produced in the Congress held on March of 7, 2020 in Ekiti State.
Also sought was a declaration that the Congress that produced the ward chairmen in a congress conducted by Gboyega Oguntuase-led SWC was legal, and in line with section 4 chapter 15 of the PDP constitution.
They also sought a perpetual injunction restraining the 1st defendant from publishing any name other than the names that emanated from SWC as ward Chairmen in the congress.
They also averred that hiring of a Notary public to swear in the ward Chairmen by the 1st defendant, rather than the party State Chairman was a breach of the 1999 and the party’s constitutions.
But in their counter-affidavits, the 1st, 4th and 5th defendants urged the court to discountenance the reliefs, saying only the NWC has the power to conduct congresses and that the actions taken by the 4th defendant were legal and aligned with the PDP constitution and provisions of the Electoral Act.
They also averred that the court also lacked the jurisdictional powers to entertain the case ab initio.
The tenure of the state executives of the party from the wards to the SWC expired on May 10, following which the PDP NWC ordered the conduct of factional congresses that sparked up controversy and gave rise to the litigation.
The litigants were enraged by the way the NWC Congress committee led by the Taraba State Deputy Governor, had arrived late to the state to conduct the congress that had earlier been done by the SWC.
In his response to the judgement, the Counsel to the plaintiffs, Barr. Stephen Ademuagun, said his clients would appeal the case.
But the lawyer to the defendants, Barr. Kolapo Kolade, said the verdict was a clear confirmation that issues that revolve around internal affairs of a party can only be resolved through party’s internal mechanisms.