A Federal High Court in Abuja has waved aside calls for the cancellation of the ongoing PDP primaries in Akwa Ibom State.
It has however adjourned to Wednesday, 1st of June, 2022 for further hearing on preliminary objections by the defendants, in a case instituted by a PDP member in Akwa Ibom State, Mr Friday Iwok and 30 others challenging the April 30, 2022 Ward Congress conducted in the State.
The court presided by Justice Obiora Egwatu also urged the parties in the case to avoid delaying the process, but to help the Court accelerate hearing following the limited judicial time frame for pre-election matters.
Appearing on behalf of the the Plaintiffs, Ahmed Raji had argued that the 2nd -331st Defendants, PDP, and its Adhoc Delegates committed a contempt of court by ignoring the Status Quo Bellum order of the court, and urged the court to cancel the outcome of all the primaries which commenced from Sunday May 22nd in Akwa Ibom State.
Counsel Ahmed Raji, argued that “It is contempt by the violators but we are only asking that the court sets aside all actions taken by the defendants after being served with the order of the court.
“If the order to maintain status quo is not obeyed, they will likely not obey the final judgement”, Raji roared.
But Paul Usoro appearing for PDP, 2nd Defendant reasoned that “assuming without conceding, that Ahmed Raji is correct, before the court is the preliminary objection on jurisdiction which PDP filed yesterday challenging the locus standi of the plaintiff and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.”
He argued that , “Contempt occurs when an order of the court is flouted.
Paul Usoroh reasoned that, “The position of the law is that where a person accused is alleging jurisdiction competence, the jurisdiction should be first decided.
“Without jurisdiction, all the orders from that court is invalid, he said, citing earlier judicial precedents. Based on that, I urge the Court to proceed with the preliminary objections and the substantive suit to determine the matter once and for all.
“We all agree with His Lordship to manage the judicial time and proceed with the substantive matter, as confirmed by Ahmed Raji.
“I personally looked at the order of the court and it was an advice which I believe was well intended by His lordship, but the other parties(the Adhoc delegates) who were same day joined in the matter, were not even given time to articulate their case and I don’t think His lordship would have given an order against such people”.
Paul Usoroh further posited that, “we also appealed the pronouncement (status quo Ante Bellum) in the event that our brother (Counsel to the Plaintiffs)makes the kind of submissions he has just made.
“To manage judicial time, I urge for the preliminary objections to be addressed.”
In his argument, Counsel to the 3rd to 331st respondents, Uwemedimoh Nwoko, adopted the position of the 2nd Defendant and added that the Court had not made any order.
He reminded the court that a restraining order against the Adhoc Delegates was sought four times by the Plaintiffs and the court refused to grant their request.
Nwoko argued that the court only advised parties to behave well by using the legal term Status Quo Ante Bellum.
He said since it was not a restraining order, the Congress of the PDP was held and it was in compliance with the electoral law 2022 as amended, which forbids the court from stopping the primaries and elections.
“We have filed notice of preliminary objections submitted yesterday. We also filed motion for stay of execution, in other to stay on the side of caution.”
Mr Nwoko urged the Court to ignore the call for the cancellation of the primaries and rather focus on the preliminary objections which argues that the plaintiffs had no locus standi to challenge the ward Adhoc Congresses in Akwa Ibom State, having not shown any evidence that they contested for the PDP Adhoc Delegates primaries in the State.
“Someone in this court erroneously published that the court’s Status Quo Ante Bellum advice, was an order stopping the PDP primaries, whereas my lord never made such order. Now everyone in Uyo, from traders, to transporters and business men are now chanting Status Quo Ante Bellum everywhere.
“In fact, Status Quo Ante Bellum now walks on two legs on the streets of Uyo”, Nwoko said, prompting an outburst of laughter from the court.
Attempts by Counsel to Plaintiffs, Ahmed Raji to insist on the contempt appeal was waved aside as the Judge Obiora Egwatu told him that it amounted to asking the court to stop the Primaries.
Raji appealed for more time to study the preliminary objections filed by the defendants which the court accepted following no objections by the counsel defendants.
Earlier, Counsel to the first Defendant, INEC, Mr Abdullaziz Sani had said the practice was to avoid crying more than the bereaved. “I have gone through all the processes served on me, I observed that throughout the bulk of the originating summons documents, the name of the 1st defendant was only mentioned in the 6th paragraph and it merely defined our responsibility. I therefore opt to sit on the fence on the matter.“
During the last sitting, the court had agreed that 329 delegates representing the 987 elected delegates of the PDP be joined in the suit by the Plaintiffs.
Commenting after the sitting, counsel to the plaintiffs Ahmed Raji explained that he got the preliminary objections brief by the defendants very late hence his decision to ask for the adjournment.
Counsel to the 3rd – 331st defendants Uwemedimo Nwoko lauded the court for proceeding to hear the preliminary objections instituted and assured the since Iwok and co were not even aspiring delegates Ab initio, they had no business coming to waste the time of the court.