The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop its impending primary elections, following its alleged refusal to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the South East.
The party, in processes it filed through its team of lawyers led by Mr. Mahmud Magaji, SAN, further queried the powers of the court to summon it to respond to the suit that was lodged by one of its presidential aspirants, Mr. Cosmas Ndukwe.
It maintained that the court lacked the jurisdiction to meddle in its internal affairs.
PDP, in its preliminary objection against the suit, contended that the subject matter of the case, which borders on whether to zone its presidential ticket to any part of the country or not, was not an issue that the court was constitutionally empowered to adjudicate upon.
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It, therefore, urged the court to vacate the order directing it to show cause why reliefs the Plaintiff is seeking in the suit, should not be granted.
Justice Donatus Okorowo of the high court had last Friday, granted an ex-parte order for PDP to appear on May 5, to respond to the suit.
The plaintiff, Ndukwe, who is a former Deputy Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, in an application he brought before the court, sought an order of injunction restraining his party 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 its presidential ticket.
Cited as Defendants in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2022, are the PDP, National Chairman of party, Dr Iyorchia Atu, Chairman of PDP Primary Election Planning Committee/National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Though the court declined to grant the restraining order, if directed the plaintiff to put all the Defendants on notice to enable them to appear on the next adjourned date to show cause.
In its swift objection to the suit, PDP, aside from challenging jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit, argued that it had become status 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.
PDP, noted that the cause of action arose from a communique its National Zoning Committee issued onApril 5, whereas the plaintiff’s suit, was filed on April 19, 15 days after, in violation of Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which provides for 14 days for filing of such cases.
Meanwhile, the 3rd defendant in the suit, Senator Anyanwu, has also gone before the Court of Appeal in Abuja to set aside the summon on the party, contending that the trial judge erred in law.
He argued that Ndukwe’s suit was not ripe for hearing as at the time the trial court made the order.
“The learned trial judge erred in entertaining an exparte 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”, he argued.
It will be recalled that PDP had fixed May 28 for the conduct of its presidential primary election and to that effect, screened the 17 aspirants that obtained its presidential form to contest in the 2023 election.
However, in his suit, Ndukwe, through his lawyer, Mr. Paul Erokoro, SAN, challenged the scheduled presidential primary on the premise that PDP was planning to act in breach of its own constitution on zoning.
He told the court that PDP has a rotation of elective offices in place, and by that arrangement, it ought to be the turn of the Southern part of the country, especially the South East geopolitical zone, to produce the president.