By Tony Edike
ENUGU—THE Court of Appeal in Enugu yesterday vacated its earlier interim order restraining the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from conducting fresh congresses to elect new members of the party’s executive committee in the state.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Ignatius Agube, ruled that the panel agreed that the jurisdiction of the appellate court was circumscribed when viewed against the prevailing circumstances of the appeal.
He stated that the panel sustained the preliminary objection of counsel to the second respondent as meritorious, ruling that the interim order of the appellate court on November 11, 2010,”is hereby suspended” just as he said two other motions filed by the applicants had been struck out.
Justices Hussein Muktar and Mojeed Owoade corroborated him, while the former held that Offiah’s instant motion before the court was quite misplaced.
Yesterday’s ruling of the appellate court was, however, greeted with mixed feelings as the faction of the party in the state loyal to Governor Sullivan Chime quickly rushed to file a fresh motion to stall the coming congresses, while jubilation was the order of the day in the other camp which members are working with the national chairman of the party, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo.
Immediately the three-man panel of judges delivered the ruling, nerves frayed literally outside the court room as counsel to Vita Abba and 28 others who dragged INEC and PDP to court over the matter, Mrs. Justina Offiah,SAN, and Prof. Ilochi Okafor, SAN, with Dr. Mike Ajogwu, SAN, countered each other.
While Okafor told reporters that there was nothing hindering the PDP from going on to conduct the congresses as the court had vacated the earlier order given by another of the court stopping the congress, Offiah said she had filed a new motion for interlocutory injunction against the ruling of the Federal High Court, Enugu, which had prompted the appeal that was struck out yesterday.
Again, while she told journalists that she had served Ajogwu with the motion in court, the latter claimed that nothing was served on him, adding that what happened was that while the judges were delivering the ruling, Offiah tried to give him some documents which he rejected.
He maintained that “you don’t serve a counsel in that manner while a ruling is in progress in court”.
Also speaking on the new development , Barrister Ray Nnaji, who recently defected to the governor’s camp in the crisis said after the court’s verdict yesterday that the new motion for interlocutory injunction having been successfully filed in the Court of Appeal, INEC and PDP are bound to refrain from doing anything contrary until the final determination of the motion.
A copy of the motion dated 15th November, 2010 stated that the appellants were dissatisfied with the decision of the lower court on 10th November, 2010 when it referred certain questions to the appellate court for determination and decided to file the fresh appeal.
But Okafor and Ajogwu maintained earlier that PDP now has unfettered leverage to go on and conduct the fresh congresses which had been stalled by the interim injunction vacated yesterday.