Symbol of Justice
Tobi Soniyi and Chuks Okocha in Abuja
An Abuja High Court yesterday declared the ward, local government and state congresses of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) conducted in Anambra State that produced the Oguebego Ejike-led executive committee as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
In its place, Justice U.P Kekemeke ordered the PDP to liaise with the plaintiff, Emma Mbamalu, and his executive to organise and conduct fresh ward, local government and state congresses in the state.
The court in arriving at the decision, threw out the objections raised by the party challenging its jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter as well as the competence of the suit.
The court had earlier thrown out an application by the purported state chairman of the party, Kenneth Emekayi to be joined in the suit on the ground that he was not a necessary party to the action.
Citing relevant legal authorities, Justice Kememeke in his judgment held that it was clear from the affidavit evidence and the claim of the plaintiff before the court that his court had the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the case.
Besides, he held that the case before his court was tailored around a breach of the party’s guidelines and constitution regarding the conduct of congresses in the state and not a dispute challenging the election of principal officers of the party in the state.
The judge said: “The administration of a political party is guided by its constitution and if a political party derails from its constitution, it has opened its doorway for the court to come in. So the argument of the party that the matter is a domestic affair does not hold water. So a breach of the party’s constitution and guidelines is no longer a matter within the domestic affairs of the party. From the facts of this case, the complaint of the plaintiff is the failure of the party which has its headquarters in Abuja to conduct congresses in Anambra state as stipulated by its constitution.
“The non-conduct of the congresses in the state is a breach of the party’s constitution and guidelines. From the affidavit evidence before me, it is clear that no congress was conducted in the state on March, 3, 16 or 17, 2012.”
In addition, the court further held that the congresses purportedly conducted in defiance of an order of court was a nullity as the court has not vacated its order and neither had the order been set aside by the court of appeal.
The judge said: “There was an order restraining the defendants from conducting congresses in the state and there is no record before this court that that order has been vacated or set aside. An order of court subsists until it is vacated or set aside by a superior court.
“A party who knows of an order of court cannot be permitted to disobey it. The defendant counsel was in court when the order was made.
The plaintiff went ahead to publish the order in two national dailies. The congress purportedly conducted in defiance to the order of court is a nullity and I so hold. To hold otherwise would amount to lawlessness. This suit succeeds, the ward, local government and state congresses conducted in Anambra state on the 3rd, day of March, 2012, 10th day of March, 2012 and 16 or 17th day of March, 2012 is illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.”
In his supporting affidavit to the originating summons, the plaintiff who is the Acting State Chairman of the party said they had set up the congress committees for the state congresses and mandated the ward officers to set up the ward congresses and also the local officers to set up the local government congresses committee and membership registration committees.
He told the court through his counsel, Ifeanyi Nrialike from the law firm of Ikechukwu Ezechukwu [SAN] that under the guidelines for the congress, the actual conduct of the congress was to be by the congress Committee after the registration exercise of old and new members at the wards.
The plaintiff averred further that the congress monitoring committee from the party’s headquarters in Abuja who were sent to monitor the congresses did not arrive the state but holed themselves in a hotel and wrote results of the congresses even as the entire members of the party were waiting for them to release materials for the conduct of the exercise. He said that the ward congresses were not held in compliance with the PDP constitution and guidelines for the congresses and the Electoral Act 2010, as amended in that no registration of members, voting, no accreditation took place in any of the wards in the Anambra State.