- Petitions NJC
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC) over alleged involvement of the judiciary in Rivers State in an alleged plot by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to stop it from conducting congresses in the state chapter of the ruling party.
The APC accused PDP of conniving with Justice Augusta Kingsley-Chukwu of the Rivers State High Court, who is said to be married to a leader of the opposition party, to keep APC in the state in perpetual paralysis through endless suits and injunctions.
He said after the Supreme Court’s decision to nullify the APC congresses in Rivers State and the disqualification of the party from participating in the 2019 governorship election in the state, the APC decided to re-strategise and reposition the party.
This, he said, informed the decision of the party to constitute a caretaker committee on September 6, 2019 to pilot the affairs of the party in the state and also scheduled the conduct of congresses to elect the executives of the party at various levels.
Issa-Onilu explained that one Mr. Ibrahim Umah, however, instituted a court action at the state High Court challenging the proposed congresses of the party and obtained an interim injunction restraining the APC from conducting the proposed congresses.
The party spokesman said APC objected to the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit and on December 18, 2019, the court struck out the suit for want of jurisdiction to pave the way for preparations for the conduct of the congresses.
Issa-Onilu said before the court rendered its decision striking out the suit, one Mr. Igo Aguma filed a similar suit against the APC challenging the composition of the caretaker committee, adding that the suit was filed on December 16, 2019 and assigned to Justice Kingsley-Chukwu.
According to him, despite the fact that the party was entitled to 21 days within which to enter an appearance and file a defence to the suit, it was brought to the party’s attention that the judge had abridged the time to 48 hours.
He said: “Our curiosity was further heightened when we discovered that the husband of Justice Augusta Kingsley-Chukwu is a PDP leader who had previously contested for the position of Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and currently serves as the legal adviser of the PDP in Rivers State.
“It is now obvious that the PDP being the ultimate beneficiary of the inability of the APC to elect its state executives for more than one year owing to judicial restrictions have deployed professional litigants and judicial staff to aid their unholy interference in the affair of the APC.”
The ruling party accused the main opposition party and its allies of ensuring that the suit is assigned to the judge despite the obvious likelihood of bias and miscarriage of justice that might ensued.
The ruling party said that the fears of bias on the part of the judge led the Rivers State APC to forward a petition to the Chief Judge of Rivers State requesting the reassignment of the suit to another judge for adjudication, stressing that the petition was endorsed to the judge.
Issa-Onilu said on December 20, 2019, the suit was listed before Justice Kingsley-Chukwu for hearing of the pending application and despite the fact that the party’s counsel drew the attention of the court to the petition pending before the chief judge as well as the weighty allegations contained therein, the judge proceeded to entertain the suit and granted an injunction restraining the APC and the caretaker committee from taking any steps whatsoever on the conduct of the congresses.
The party, therefore, urged the NJC and the Chief Justice of Nigeria to caution judicial officers in Rivers State against perpetually stopping APC from conducting congresses in the state.