An Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt has set aside the judgment of a Federal High Court that sacked the All Progressives Congress governorship candidate, Tonye Cole, and national, and state assembly candidates.
Recall that a court presided over by Justice Emmanuel Obile had on October 25 in Port Harcourt sacked the candidates of APC following a suit by George Orlu and five others over their claims of exclusion from the party’s delegate congresses.
The Court of Appeal gave the decisions in three separate judgments on an appeal brought by the APC, the governorship candidate of the party, Tonye Cole, and the National and State Assembly candidates, arising from the earlier judgement.
The three-man special panel of the Court of Appeal in their judgment delivered by the lead Judge, Justice Muhammed Lawal-Shaibu said George Orlu and five others did not exhaust the internal party mechanism before instituting the suit.
Lawal-Shaibu held that the respondents did not participate in the congress of the APC and so did not have any cause of action and lacked the locus standi to go to court.
The judge further said it was inconceivable for the Federal High Court Judge not to have joined some candidates of APC who are interested parties in the suit.
The panel said the nomination of delegates and political parties is purely an internal party affair, and that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit abi initio.
He thereby set aside the judgment against the APC and awarded the sum of N500, 000 each for the three cases as cost against the appeal respondents in favour of APC.
In a related situation, in a 15-ground appeal instituted by Senatorial, Federal House of Representatives and State Assembly candidates the court held that the aggrieved defendants at appeal could not exhaust the internal mechanisms as provided by the party’s constitution before going to court.
Lawal-Shaibu said the trial Judge did something strange when it delivered judgement on the preliminary objection of the defence and the substantive matter just to grant all the prayers of the plaintiff.
He said the judge was in a serious error for not going into the merit of the matter, questioning how the court got reasons to deliver its judgement without properly examining the matter.
Justice Lawal-Shaibu said the appeals by APC, Cole and assembly candidates were in merit and are allowed.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State APC 2023 Campaign Council while hailing the judgment, commended the judiciary for standing on the path of justice.
Spokesman of the council, Barr Sogbeye Eli, said the judgement would give Rivers people the opportunity to choose the candidates of their choice at the poll, even as he called on politicians to approach democracy with utmost fairness and a sense of responsibility.
Eli said the APC would commence activities following the judgement, pointing out that the party would not apply to the state to use public schools for its campaigns.
“We will not apply to anybody to use the school. If we do that it amounts to illegality. We are in court challenging it,” Eli said.