Federal High Court declines further hearing on suit seeking to restrain APC on Direct Primary

As Police walk Obaseki’s aide out of court for unruly conduct.

A Federal High Court sitting in Benin presided by Mohammed Garba Umar on Thursday stayed further action on the suit seeking to restrain the All Progressives Congress (APC) from going ahead with its planned direct primaries for the Edo State governorship primary election slated for June 22, 2020. Umar said his ruling on June 8 for the parties to maintain status quo on the party primaries subsists pending the outcome of the case before the Court of Appeal.

The suit, filed by members of the faction of the APC loyal to the governor, Kenneth Asekomhe, and a governorship aspirant, Matthew Iduoriyikemwen has the APC, its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Inspector-general of police as respondents.

Restraining itself from further hearing of the case, Umar ordered the transfer of all court processes to the Court of Appeal for hearing due to the application for stay of proceeding filed by the APC. The court had resumed hearing in the case after an adjournment till today, Thursday for definite hearing. At an earlier hearing of the matter on Monday, three other APC governorship aspirants namely former Oredo local government council chairman, Osaro Obazee, former deputy governor, Pius Odubu, and Osagie Ize-Iyamu, former secretary to the state government, SSG, sought to be joined as interested parties in the suit.

In his argument at the resumed hearing, counsel to the defendants, Roland Otaru said the court lacked the jurisdiction to have given the order of stay of execution on June 8 and thus decided to appeal the matter. Otaru said the issue of jurisdiction is like a “traffic light” that should be obeyed and that going ahead with the case would amount to judicial recklessness. He prayed the court to hands off the matter as it had already been appealed at a higher court and that if the higher court decided otherwise, they would have no option than to come back to the same court.

Responding, Ken Mozia, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, counsel to the plaintiffs, argued that he had not been served the various papers. Mozia said the subject matter being argued had not been ruled upon by the court and therefore there was no case of issues of jurisdiction. He argued that time was 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.

After hearing the arguments of counsel, the trial judge ruled that the motion for joinder filed by some aspirants was not ripe for hearing and that parties would be heard on joinder at the appropriate time. He said “Having listened to both parties in this matter, I hereby order that the case be transmitted to the Court of Appeal and the ruling earlier made subsists. The case has been adjourned till Wednesday June 17, 2020 for hearing to know what the Court of Appeal has to say”, the judge said.

There was however a mild drama in court as a lawyer, Adaze Enwanta was walked out of the court by the Police for unruly conduct. The constitutional lawyer also allegedly insulted his learned colleagues. Enwanta, a political aide to the Governor, Godwin Obaseki, was said to have come to the court improperly dressed wearing a jean pant and shirt and constituted a nuisance with his indecorous action. When senior lawyers present became aware that he was a lawyer after he called fellow lawyers ‘stupid’ and “Idiot”, they asked him to leave the Court. He initially resisted but as he was to be bundled out of the Court room, he left on his own, muttering abusive words.

Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu Photo
Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu Photo
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