By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North, Henry Umoru & Onozure Dania
Abuja — The fledging leadership of the Abubakar Baraje-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party suffered major setbacks, yesterday, with the rejection of its list of officials as the authentic leaders of the party by Independent National Electoral Commission as well as defeat at a Lagos High Court in its suit against the Bamanga Tukur-led faction of the party.
INEC said it would not withdraw the recognition it accorded the Bamanga Tukur group since it was privy to the processes that led to his emergence as the National Chairman of the party as well as other officials of his group.
INEC’s clarification followed a letter written by the National Secretary of the New Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, asking the commission to recognise Baraje and members of his National Working Committee as the valid leaders of the party.
INEC in its letter to the Baraje faction, which was addressed to the National Secretary of the faction, Mr. Olagunsoye Oyinlola, said that it stood by the elections that brought both Tukur and his officials into office and would therefore not recognise Baraje and his officials.
The letter with reference No. INEC/LEG/PDP/19/111/245 and dated October 2, 2013, was captioned: Notification of Changes in the leadership of the PDP and request for formal recognition and signed by the Acting Secretary of INEC, Mr. U. F. Usman.
INEC in its reply, which was received by the Baraje faction on October 3, 2013, said, “The commission acknowledges the receipt of your letters dated 1st and 23rd September respectively wherein you requested the commission’s recognition of the Baraje-led faction and newly-elected NWC.
“You will recall that the commission monitored the National Convention and Special National Convention of the PDP held on the 24th of March 2012 and 31st of August 2013 at the Eagle Square, Abuja, after notices to the commission.
“A NWC was elected at the two conventions with Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as the National Chairman. The commission will not withdraw recognition from the leadership of the PDP elected at the conventions duly monitored by the commission.
“Be guided accordingly,” the commission said.
Vanguard learnt that there was jubilation in the Presidency last night following the leakage of the INEC’s letter to its strategists.
At a Lagos High Court, the suit filed by the Alhaji Kawu Baraje’s faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, against the National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and three others was struck out for want of jurisdiction.
The suit was filed by Baraje, Dr. Sam Jaja and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola on September 1, 2013.
The Baraje’s faction had dragged Tukur and his co-defendants to court praying for an interlocutory injunction to stop them from parading themselves as PDP National Executive Committee members.
Joined in the suit as defendants were Uche Secondus, Deputy National Chairman; Dr Kema Chikwe, Women Leader and Olisa Metuh, National Publicity Secretary.
The counsel to the defendants, Mr. Joe Kyari-Gadzama, SAN, and Mr Emeka Etiaba, had in their earlier preliminary notice of objection, asked the court to strike out the suit for want of jurisdiction.
The counsel had argued during the last sitting that the writs of summons did not comply with the mandatory requirements of Section 97 of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act because they were not endorsed.
The plaintiffs’ counsel, Robert Emukpaeruo, had argued that the court had jurisdiction to hear the suit contrary to the objections raised by the defendants.
In her short ruling, Justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie, held that the Lagos State High Court had no power to assume jurisdiction over a matter which originated outside its jurisdiction.
She said the applicants had averred in their affidavit that the course of action, which was the special convention of the PDP, arose in Abuja and that the PDP had its registered office in Abuja while none of the defendants are resident in Lagos State.
The judge then held that,”with the defendants not resident in Lagos and the subject matter originating in Abuja, the High Court of Lagos State has no power to assume jurisdiction over this suit. I accordingly make an order striking out the suit,” Adefope Okojie said.
No cause for alarm — G7 Govs, Baraje
In its reaction yesterday, the Abubakar Kawu Baraje led new Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said that there was no cause for alarm over the ruling by a Lagos High Court which threw out the suit instituted against the Alhaji Bamanga Tukur led National Working Committee, NWC.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, the group said, “We wish to assure our teeming members and Nigerians in general that there is no cause to worry. This is because the ruling has nothing to do with the merit of the case but the place of filing. As advised by His Lordship, we shall hasten to re-file the suit, this time in Abuja, as we are convinced about the merit of our case.
“Finally, we urge all our supporters and members not to despair or exercise any atom of fear and should continue to support the leadership of our great party under the able leadership of Alhaji Abubakar Baraje as we are getting closer to freeing our party from the enclave of undemocratic elements currently holding us to ransom and doing everything within their powers to ruin all that our founding fathers struggled to build.
“With today’s (yesterday) court ruling, we are now very determined to restore PDP to the path of honour particularly now that we have lost our great first National Chairman, Dr. Solomon Lar to the cold hands of death. Let us reiterate that nothing and we repeat nothing will stop us from implementing the visions of both Dr. Solomon Lar and all the founding fathers of our great party to the letter and keeping all undemocratic elements at bar from leadership of our great party.”