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More Confusion in Enugu APC as Court Delivers Judgement

The legal tussle over the leadership of the Enugu State Executive Council of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is far from being over. The court granted some of the reliefs sought by the factional chairman of the party in the State, Deacon Okey Ogbodo, it refused to grant an order for the withdrawal of Certificate of Return from Dr Ben Nwoye.

The Federal High Court, sitting in Enugu, presided over by Justice A. M Liman had in an elaborate judgement on Thursday, agreed with the plaintiff, Ogbodo, that Nwoye did not comply with Article 31 of the APC Constitution, which deals with on waiver.
It resolved five reliefs in favour of the plaintiff and five others in favour of the defendants.
Ogbodo had told the court that Nwoye did not resign his position 30 days to the State Congress, adding that he did not also apply for a waiver in his ward as provided for in the party’s constitution.
He equally averred that he was duly elected during the Congress held on May 19, 2018 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu.
However, Nwoye challenged the originating summons, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction. He said further that the case is defective having commenced by way of originating summon and that it was also not justifiable as it bothers on internal affairs of the party.
Nwoye had also told the court that Ogbodo was not even a member of the party, and as such lacks the locu standi on the matter.
But in his judgement, the court resolved the issue of jurisdiction on behalf of the plaintiff, Ogbodo.
Justice Liman held that Section 85 of the Electoral Act makes provision for congresses and that it mandates political parties to conduct their activities in a democratic manner.
“At the event the party fails to do so, the aggrieved has right to approach the court to ventilate his anger. It thus makes it justiciable. I hereby rule that this suit is justiciable,” he held.
On whether the case was an abuse of court processes, wherein the defendants had told the court that similar cases were pending in other Federal High Courts, and an Enugu State High Court, the court held that the plaintiff provided clear evidence that the other matters before the Federal High Court had since been struck out.
On the case before an Enugu High Court, he said it was different from the instant case in a number of ways.
“It is my view that the first defendant failed to prove that this is an abuse of court process,” Justice Liman ruled.
While ruling on the issue of waiver, the Court held that according to Article 31 of the APC Constitution, the person seeking waiver would write to his ward, adding that the said power of NEC to grant waiver was not automatic but must be based on fulfilment of certain conditions listed in article 31.
“The Constitution of the party makes personal application a mandatory requirement,” he held, stating further that the first defendant admitted that he did not apply for waiver, but relied on the pronouncement made by the NEC.
According to the court, by virtue of Articles 13 and 31 of the APC constitution, Nwoye was required to leave office 30 days to the May 19 congress, otherwise obtain a waiver.
“It is also clear that by virtue of APC Constitution, the 1st defendant was ineligible to contest,” held.
He, however, said the relief 4, whereby Ogbodo was asking to be declared the authentic chairman of the party in the State could not be granted as the plaintiff abandoned it in his written address.
The 4th relief is hereby refused and dismissed having been abandoned by the plaintiff,” he ruled.
On the relief praying the court to set aside the certificate of return given to Nwoye, it declined, maintaining that the guidelines used in electing Nwoye had already been concluded.
Reacting to the judgement, Ogbodo’s counsel, Barr. Ugochukwu Malachy Eze said “the judgement has been delivered by the court; out of the 10 reliefs sought by the plaintiff, the court granted 5.
“So, as it stands now, we will appeal the judgement, because you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand.
“The five reliefs granted, showed clearly that the 4th defendant (Nwoye) was not qualified to contest, so other reliefs refused are appealable and we believe that legally and based on precedent, the appeal will turn in our favour.
“As it stands now, we have 5 reliefs in our favour and 5 refused. All the preliminary objections raised by the defendants were thrown away.
“The first relief granted is that Ben Nwoye is not qualified to contest the election by virtue of the APC Constitution. He did not resign within 30 days and he did not obtain waiver.
“So, he is not a qualified candidate and such person cannot be allowed to hold the return ticket. You cannot eat your cake and have it, that is why I said we will appeal the judgement.
“One of the reliefs we sought the court refused is relief 4, wherein we asked the court to declare the plaintiff the duly elected chairman of the APC in Enugu State, and that refusal of the court, is to me, wrong. It is a relief contained in our augment, which the court is supposed to grant, it is appealable.
“Another relief refused, the one that baffled us most, is the refusal of the court to withdraw the certificate of return from him. Ordinarily, the judgement is supposed to be in favour of the plaintiff, but due to some minor issues, the court thought otherwise, but we know that on an appeal, it will be one way.”
Also speaking, counsel to the defendant, Barr. Ogbodo Ugo F. Ukwueze, said by the judgement, Nwoye remains the chairman of the APC in Enugu State.
According to him, “The Court refused to set aside Ben Nwoye’s certificate of return. The court also refused to declare Okey Ogbodo the chairman of APC in Enugu State.
“However, the court faulted Dr. Ben Nwoye’s failure to apply for personal waiver. Ben Nwoye relied on the mass waiver granted by the NEC, but the court is saying that the requirement of the law is that he ought to have applied for personal waiver or resigned 30 days before the congress. But the court said it will not rely on that to set aside his certificate of return.”
Asked to comment on the judgement, he said, “The outcome is that Dr. Ben Nwoye still remains the substantive chairman of the APC in Enugu State. The court deemed it fit, it did not have any reason to set aside, and it refused to set aside his certificate of return.
“We may appeal against some of the rulings when I consult my client, but as it stands now, Ben Nwoye and the Enugu APC got the judgement from court today.”
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