By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The All Progressives Congress, APC, has filed a petition against Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, accusing him of accelerating hearing of a suit that is seeking to disqualify its governorship candidate in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The ruling party, in the petition it forwarded to the Chief Judge of the High Court, Justice John Tsoho, requested the immediate withdrawal of the suit from Justice Taiwo to enable another judge to take over and hear the matter.
In the petition dated August 20, which was signed by the National Secretary of the APC Caretaker Committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, the party, alleged that Justice Taiwo unnecessarily expedited hearing on the suit by granting abridgement of time to the plaintiffs when motion for such relief had not been moved before the court.
It further accused the trial Judge of having a close relationship with the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, who is the Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, campaign committee for the governorship election billed to hold in Edo State on September 19.
APC alleged that Governor Wike had openly boasted that he would do everything humanly possible to guarantee victory for the PDP, by ensuring the disqualification of Ize-Iyamu through the court.
Specifically, the party, alleged that Justice Taiwo had on August 10, arbitrarily abridged the time allowed by law for the Defendants to respond to the suit, even when the said Defendants were yet to be served with the originating summons.
It added that the Judge went ahead and fixed the matter for August 24, when motion on notice for abridgement of time had not been moved by the Plaintiffs.
The petition further read: “That even when the Hon court granted exparte order for substituted service of the processes in suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/839/2020, the story all over Edo is that the APC candidate Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has been disqualified by Justice Taiwo Taiwo
“That the APC is worried that they have no chance of getting Justice before Justice Taiwo Taiwo on account of his affinity to Governor Wike and the anxiety demonstrated by abridging the time for defendants to file processes when the motion to do so was still pending and some defendants had not been served with the originating summons”.
Meanwhile, when the matter came up on Monday, Ize-Iyamu’s lawyer, Mr Roland Otaru, SAN, and that of APC, Ehiogie West-Idahosa, drew Justice Taiwo’s attention to the petition and urged him to suspend further proceedings on the matter to await the decision of the Chief Judge.
However, Justice Taiwo, also drew the attention of the parties to new practice direction from the National Judicial Council, NJC, which he said forbade him handing off the matter before any administrative directive from the CJ.
The Judge stressed that the NJC’s directive was to the effect that no Judge should stop proceeding in a pre-election matter until otherwise directed by the Council.
Having failed to persuade the court to stop further proceedings on the matter, the Defendants, applied for an adjournment to enable them respond to issues that were raised in the suit and to also allow the Plaintiffs to move a motion for the matter to be heard during vacation.
Justice Taiwo subsequently adjourned the case till September 3 to hear all the pending motions.
The plaintiffs, led by Hon. Momoh Abdul-Razak had through their lawyer, Sir Friday Nwosu, sued the APC, Ize-Iyamu, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Audu Ganiyu, seeking an order of court to stop Ize-Iyamu’s participation in the election on account of his alleged ineligibility.
The Plaintiffs maintained that Ize-Iyamu was not validly nominated by the APC to contest the election.
In a related development, the court okayed substituted service of a suit challenging the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole led National Working Committee, NWC, of the APC.
Justice Taiwo ordered that the suit should be served on Yobe state governor, Mai Mala Buni, being the APC National Caretaker Committee Chairman, by pasting same at the entrance of the National Secretariat of the APC at No. 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse, Abuja.
Others that are also affected by the order on substituted service are; Governor Sani Bello, Senator Ken Nnamani, Isiaka Oyebola, Dr James Lalu, Senator Abubakar Yusuf, Hon. Akinyemi Olaide, David Leon, Professor Tahir Mamman, Ismail Ahmed and Senator Akpan Udoedehe.
The order followed complaints by the plaintiff, Kalu Agu, that the Respondents repeatedly evaded service of the court processes on them.