•As lawyer to party’s scribe kicks
Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Tuesday ordered the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to file all its processes within four days in a suit seeking the court’s order to halt its presidential primary slated for May 28, 2022.
Justice Okorowo gave the order while delivering ruling in an application for abridgment of time as well as accelerated hearing in the suit filed by an aggrieved aspirant and member of the PDP, Chief Cosmas Ndukwe.
Ndukwe, a former Deputy Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, had on April 28 brought an ex-parte application for an order of injunction restraining the PDP from proceeding with its scheduled primary election pending the hearing and determination of his suit challenging the position of the party on the issue of zoning the party’s presidential ticket.
Defendants in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2022 are PDP, its National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu; PDP’s National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu and the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) as 1st to 4th respectively.
However, rather than grant the application to halt the planned primary, Justice Okorowo ordered that the PDP should appear before it on May 5 and show cause why the court should not accede to the plaintiff’s demand.
When the matter came up last Thursday, hearing in the matter could not go on following complaints by counsel to the plaintiff, Paul Erokoro, SAN that he was just served the affidavit of the PDP, relating to the court’s order to show cause why the primary should not be stopped.
Erokoro, subsequently asked for time to respond to PDP and was granted since counsel to the PDP, Mahmud Magaji, SAN, did not object to the request for adjournment.
Justice Okorowo subsequently shifted hearing to May 10 and ordered parties to file and exchange their processes in the suit.
When the matter came up yesterday, May 10, 2022, Magaji announced appearance for the 1st defendant, Mr Abdullahi Aliyu SAN and Mr Kalu Agu announced appearance for the 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively.
Both Aliyu and Agu complained to the court that they were yet to be served with the suit as ordered by the court.
When efforts were made to serve them in court, while Aliyu accepted service on behalf of the 2nd defendant, Agu declined, claiming he was not given such instructions from his client.
Accordingly, Justice Okorowo granted an order of substituted service on the 3rd defendant, which the court held should be pasted at the Wadata office complex of the defendants in Wuse, Abuja.
But the defendants opposed the application for abridgment of time and accelerated hearing, claiming that there was nothing urgent about the case of the plaintiff, adding also that the plaintiff had nothing to lose if the party goes ahead with the scheduled presidential primary, because the action of the party could also be nullified by the court if found to be taken on a faulty steps.
While they argued further that it would be unfair to give the plaintiff 14 days to file the suit and reduce their own time of response, the defendants stated that abridging their time, would amount to “tying their hands to the back” while expecting them to respond.
Counsel to the 3rd defendant, Agu, further claimed that it would not be in the interest of justice for the court to abridge time, when his client was yet to be served with the suit.
Delivering ruling, Justice Okorowo agreed with counsel to the plaintiff that time was of the essence and it was necessary to hear the matter so as to resolve the rights of parties.
He explained that this was so, because all parties acknowledged that the party had fixed its primary for May 28, to elect its flag bearer in the 2023 presidential election slated for February 25.
The judge, therefore, agreed with the submissions that all motions including the one challenging jurisdiction be heard and ruling or judgment delivered on them alongside the main suit.
He subsequently directed that the 1st and 2nd respondents file their responses within the next four days, while the 3rd and 4th file theirs 4 days from the date of service and the plaintiff respond within two days. He however went on to adjourn to May 18 for parties to adopt their final addresses.