A Federal High Court sitting in Enugu, on Friday, struck out the suit seeking the disqualification of all candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party in Enugu State from taking part in the 2023 elections.
The suit which was instituted by the Enugu North Senatorial district candidate of the African Democratic Congress, Chika Idoko, was disqualified on the sole ground of lack of locus standi
In suit No: FHC/EN/CS/217/2022, Idoko had dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission, the PDP, and all its candidates in Enugu to the court.
He claimed that the PDP primary election was in contravention of Section 77 of the Electoral Act and should thus be voided, adding that the party should be punished in line with extant provisions of Section 84 of the same Act.
Idoko’s argument through his counsel, T. Ekpenyong, is that the party submitted its membership register to INEC on May 6, 2022, less than 30 days before its primary election, contrary to the provisions of the law.
He said a letter from the first defendant, which was admitted in evidence, showed that the PDP submitted the register in contravention of the Electoral Act.
However, the defendants, including the PDP, and its guber candidate, Barr. Peter Mbah, National and State Assembly candidates, argued that Idoko being a member of the ADC lacked the locus standi to file the matter, adding that it was also statute-barred, as according to them the matter was filed out of time.
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The defendants, represented by Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, Anthony Ani, SAN, Justina Offia, SAN, Ogochukwu Onyekwuluje, prayed that the matter be struck out for lack of jurisdiction.
The defendants’ counsels argued that whereas the course of action arose on May 6, the plaintiff waited till September to file the court action.
In her judgement on Friday, the presiding judge, Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo, said the matter was not statute-barred because it was not filed outside 14 days after the first defendant had published the names of candidates.
The judge however stated that the appellant lacked the locus standi to institute the matter because he was not an aspirant or a member of the second respondent.
To this effect, Justice Ohunbanjo struck out the suit, saying “This court lacks jurisdiction to hear the originating summons because it will be an exercise in futility.
“Where the plaintiff lacks local standi to maintain the matter, the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the suit.”
Reacting to the judgment, the PDP Campaign Council, hailed the court decision upholding the primary elections that produced the its candidates for the 2023 governorship, National Assembly, and State Assembly elections.
The council described it as a victory for democracy which it noted was in tandem with established previous judicial decisions.
In a statement issued by the council’s Director, Public Communications and Spokesperson of the Council, Nana Ogbodo, asked the opposition in the state to utilise the remaining campaign windows to market themselves to the people of Enugu state.
He said, “We welcome the judgment by the Honourable Court upholding the primary elections that produced our candidates in the 2023 general election.
“This is a victory for democracy and in tandem with the provisions of our laws and decisions by both the Court of Appeal Court and the Supreme Court in matters of this nature.
“Now that the honourable court has laid this matter to rest, we must seize this opportunity to advice the opposition parties and candidates in Enugu State, who were hoping to secure electoral victory by subterfuge, technicalities, and propaganda to utilise the remaining campaign window to raise their manifestos and proceed to the nooks and crannies of the state to market them to the electorate as the PDP and its candidates have been doing since 2022.
“Meanwhile, we appreciate our party faithful and supporters for their standing with the party every step of the way and urge them to get their voters cards ready to go out there to vote for the PDP on the 25th of February and 11th March 2023,” he said.