By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has fixed April 16, to hear suit challenging the tenure elongation of the National Working Committee (NWC ) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) headed by Chief John Oyegun.
The Ademorin Aliu Kioye-led APC, had filed the suit after the party extended the tenure of NWC by one year. The aggrieved members of the ruling party, had on March 15, 2018 secured an ex- parte order directing the defendants to show cause
why members of the National Working Committee of the APC should not be barred from parading themselves as national officers of the party.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), All Progressives Congress (APC), National Chairman of APC, Chief John Oyegun and the National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, are mentioned as respondents in the suit.
When the matter came up for hearing yesterday, counsel to the Plaintiff, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), informed the court that all the defendants have been duly served with the court order of 15 March 2018, that set down the matter for hearing today.
On his part, Counsel to INEC, Idris Yakubu brought to the notice of the court, a preliminary objection filed by the commission.
However, counsel to the APC, Joseph Daudu (SAN), said the party was served with the court order, and it was clear that the court did not abridge the time within which the respondents were to file their processes.
Daudu added that the suit raised serious constitutional issues, and it will be fair they file their processes as allowed by the rule because they are within time.
“For the interest of fair hearing, we are still within time to file our processes. We have a preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of this court”, he said.
Counsel to Chief Oyegun, Akin Olujimi (SAN) aligned himself with the submissions of Daudu, adding that the order of the court said nothing on the abridgement of time. He argued that the processes filed was not ripe for hearing because they have 30 days to respond in line with the law.
Also opposed to the immediate hearing of the suit, James Onoja (SAN) counsel to the National Organising Secretary of the party Osita Izunaso said the matter was not ripe for hearing as he was not served with the processes.
He further argued that as a member of the NWC of the party , he saw no reason why he was single out as a respondent to the suit. He also complained that the plaintiff misled the court by claiming he was served through the 1st defendant.
Responding, Okutepa disagreed with the defendants’ counsel that the rule of the court allowed them 30 days to respond. According to him, Order 13 rule 35 of the court provides 14 days for them to respond to the originating summons that was served on them on 14 March, 2018; adding that today (yesterday) is the 15th day, therefore the suit is ripe for hearing.
He argued further that since the defendants were served with motion on notice for interlocutory injunction on same day, they ought to have reply within seven days.
Okutepa however disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari had, during a
special meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) Tuesday evening in Abuja, conceded that the extension of the tenure of the NWC was unconstitutional, so they should allow the matter to be heard.
But Daudu, SAN, who appeared for APC urged the court to discountenance plaintiff’s submissions because there were misconceived. “Plaintiff reply is misconceived. Order 7 rule 1 provides for 30 days from the date the suit is filed in the registry and the rule are to be read as whole.
“As far as President Buhari’s views are concerned, it carries no weight, until the party meet and decide and deliberated on it. As far as the party is concerned, he is an ordinary member like others,” Daudu argued.
In his ruling, Justice Dimgba, ordered the parties to file all their processes, adding that the court will follow a road map that would guarantee fair hearing of the matter expeditiously.
He, therefore, adjourned the case to April 16 for hearing.