The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Friday challenged the jurisdiction of a Federal High Court to summon it over an issue that the party described as its internal affairs.
The PDP in a Notice of Preliminary Objection filed on Friday by its lawyer, Mr Mahmud Magaji (SAN), submitted that the subject matter of the case which borders on whether to zone its presidential ticket to any part of the country is not an issue that the court has the mandate to decide.
Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had last Thursday, ordered the PDP to appear before it on May 5, to show cause why the request of one of its presidential aspirants to stop the scheduled primary election for the selection of the party’s flag bearer in the 2023 presidential election should not be granted.
The aspirant, a former Deputy Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Mr. Cosmas Ndukwe, had brought an 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.
In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2022 are the PDP, National Chairman of PDP Dr Iyorchia Atu, Senator Samuel Anyanwu and the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) as 1st to fourth respondents respectively.
Rather than grant the request, the judge ordered that the PDP appear before it and show cause why the court should not accede to the plaintiff’s demand.
In a swift response, however, the PDP on Friday asked the court to strike out the suit for want of jurisdiction and also dismiss it for being “statute-barred”. According to the defendants, “the cause of action in the suit relates to the internal affairs of a political party and therefore falls within the doctrine of political questions which are non-justiciable” and as such the court lack jurisdiction to entertain it.
On the issue of statute-barred, the PDP noted that the cause of action arose from the PDP National Zoning Committee Communique of April 5 whereas the plaintiff’s suit was filed on April 19 (15 days after) in violation of Section 285 of the Constitution which provides for 14 days to file such cases.
While arguing further that the plaintiff lacked the necessary legal right to initiate the case, the PDP submitted that no civil right of the plaintiff has been wrong pursuant to section 6(6) of the Constitution.
The party, therefore, urged the court to uphold its objection and dismiss the case of the plaintiff, adding that the plaintiff would not be prejudiced or suffer any hardship if the case was dismissed.
Meanwhile, the 3rd defendant in the suit Senator Anyanwu had approached the Court of Appeal to set aside the order of Justice Okorowo on the defendants to show cause, arguing that the trial judge erred in law when it arrived at that decision without according them a fair hearing.
Among other complaints against the judgment of the lower court was that while the originating summons of Ndukwe was not ripe for hearing, the time for appellants to respond to the suit has also not lapsed, adding that respondents have taken steps to file counter affidavit against the suit.
“The learned trial judge erred in entertaining an ex parte motion which seeks to stop the presidential primary election of the appellant without hearing notice”, adding that the court further erred in law when it failed to “aver its mind to section 84(15) of the Electoral Act, 2022, before making an order to show cause”
The appellant in the Notice of Appeal dated April 29, further urged the court to allow the appeal and set aside the ruling of Justice Okorowo asking the PDP to show cause why its scheduled primary election should not be halted.
Recall that the PDP had fixed May 28 for the conduct of its presidential primary election and to that effect screened the 17 aspirants who obtained the presidential form to run in the 2023 election.
In the main suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2022, and filed by his lawyer, Mr Paul Erokoro (SAN), Ndukwe is challenging the scheduled presidential primary on the grounds that it breached its own constitution on zoning.
According to him, the PDP has a rotation of elective offices in place, and by that arrangement, it ought to be the turn of the south to produce the president.
As of last week, it was obvious that the PDP was not considering zoning its Presidential ticket to the south as being clamoured by southern governors and other leaders in the zone.