BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI, Abuja
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, slated September 20 to commence hearing on the suit filed before it by the Bamanga Tukur led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, seeking to declare activities of the “New PDP” illegal.
Justice Elvis Chukwu who presided over the case Friday, said he would hear both the substantive suit and preliminary objection filed against it by the respondents, led by the factional chairman of the party, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, on the same day.
Other respondents who yesterday urged the court to dismiss the suit as lacking in merit included former Vice President, Atiku Abukakar, national secretary of the splinter group, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Baraje’s deputy, Dr Sam Jaja.
It was the contention of the respondents that the suit not only lacked competence, but constitutes a domestic affair of a political party.
While challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter, members of the ‘new PDP’, insisted that the case ought to have been filed before a state or FederalCapitalTerritory high court.
Arguing through their lawyer, Mr Raji Ahmed, SAN, the Baraje group, maintained that “This action is incompetent and this Court lacks the jurisdiction to hear it. The subject matter revolves around the domestic affairs of Peoples Democratic Party.
“It is only in matters within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court under section 251 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) that can be competently entertained in this Court.
“The subject matter herein is not cognizable under section 251of the 1999 Constitution, and this Court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain it.”
Consequently, they asked the court for “an order striking out the suit in its entirety for lack of jurisdiction.”
Meantime, determined to halt activities within the camp of the faction, Tukur and eleven national officers of the PDP, urged the court to restrain the four respondents from parading themselves as officials of the party.
Equally joined as a respondent in the suit was the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Specifically, the plaintiffs prayed the court to restrain INEC from recognizing, dealing and relating with the Baraje led faction of the party as the national officers of the party, as well as restrain them from operating or opening a parallel national, State, Local Government Area and Ward Secretariat of the party pending the determination of the suit.
As well as, to issue an order, stopping the Baraje led faction from interfering with the duties and functions of the newly elected Executives of the party.
Meantime, the court, yesterday, struck out Tukur’s application which sought for an interim order of injunction against members of the ‘new PDP’.
It will be recalled that the Tukur led faction of the party had earlier prayed the same high court to hand Baraje, Onyinola and Jaja, one year jail term each, over their complicity in alleged criminal contempt of a subsisting court order.
Placing reliance on Order 35 of the Federal High Court Rules 2009, the party, insisted that the three respondents deserved to be committed to prison for allegedly violating a judgment of the high court delivered on January 11, 2013.
The said judgment had nullified Oyinlola’s candidacy as a nominee of the South-west zonal chapter of the PDP.
In a preliminary objection, Tukur, sought the dismissal of a suit the three respondents entered before a Lagos State High Court at Ikeja.
Baraje and his group had in the said suit, sought for an order stopping PDP Chairman, Tukur, Deputy National Chairman, Uche Secondus, National Women Leader, Dr Kema Chikwe, and National Publicity Olisa Metuh, from functioning as national executive officers of the party forthwith.