Obaseki, Oshiomhole’s Battle over Mode of Primary Election Shifts to Appeal Court

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Adibe Emenyonu in Benin

The Federal High Court in Benin, Edo State, has stood down the suit brought before it seeking to stop the All Progressives Congress (APC) from conducting direct primary in the state and transmitted same to the Court of Appeal.

The court adjourned the case to June 17, 2020, pending the outcome of the hearing from the appellate court fixed for June 16.

The legal battle between the state Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC, resumed yesterday at the Federal High Court in Benin.

Also joined in the suit filed by the factional state Deputy Chairman of APC, Pastor Kenneth Asemokhai, and a governorship aspirant, Mr. Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The two party chieftains had approached the court seeking to restrain the APC from adopting the direct mode of primaries, citing COVID-19 and 2018 APC National Executive Council (NEC) resolution as the ground for their action.

According to the plaintiffs, who were represented by Ken Mozia (SAN) and John Odubela (SAN), the APC Constitution provides that the states should suggest mode of primaries to the NWC, adding that they have suggested indirect primaries in which 4,000 delegates would participate with 500 delegates representing each ward.

But while the case came up yesterday, defendants in the suit had gone to the Court of Appeal, challenging the jurisdiction of the high court to hear the case.

In his arguments before Justice Mohammed G. Umar, counsel to the second defendant, Mr. Roland Otaru, said the court lacks the jurisdiction to have given the order of stay of execution on June 8, and thus, decided to appeal on the matter.

He said the issue of jurisdiction is like a ‘traffic light’ that should be obeyed, and that going ahead with the case will amount to judicial reckless.

Otaru prayed the court to hand off the matter as it has already been appealled at the higher court, and that if the higher court decided otherwise; they have no other option than to come back to the same court.

But in his arguments, counsel to the plaintiffs, Mozia, said he has not been served with the various papers and that the subject matter being argued has not been ruled upon by the court, therefore, there is no case of issues of jurisdiction or not coming up.

He argued that time is of the essence and that the court should be given the time to do its job rather than flooding the court with various papers from the Court of Appeal.

Justice Umar, after listening to arguments of counsel of both parties, decided to transmit the case to the Court of Appeal, adding however, that the subsisting order given on June 8, 2020, stands.

According to him, “I hereby ordered that the case be transmitted to the Court of Appeal, and the ruling earlier made subsists.

“”The case has been adjourned to June 17, 2020, for hearings in order to know what the Court of Appeal has to say.”

At the June 8 ruling, Justice Umar said: “All parties to this suit are hereby ordered not to do anything or proceed with any action relating to or concerning the procedure to be adopted or used by the first defendant to conduct or hold the first defendant primary election coming up next as scheduled pending the hearing and determination of this suit.

“That all applications in this suit and the response of parties shall be heard alongside the Originating Summons.”