The crisis rocking the Labour Party over its perennial leadership tussle took a twist on Thursday when the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja struck out the suit filed by one of the party’s aggrieved Imo State governorship candidates, Basil Maduka.
The suit was an appeal against the decision of the Federal High Court sitting in Owerri on June 23, 2023.
In the suit with number: CA/OW/200/2023, Maduka had alleged irregularities in the primary conducted by the party excos which ushered in Chief Ukaegbu Joseph as the party’s authentic candidate for the Imo governorship election scheduled to be held November 11, 2023.
It had the Labour Party, the Independent National Electoral Commission and Joseph as first, second and third respondents respectively.
Delivering his judgment, Justice Joseph Oyewole held that the suit be dismissed because it lacked in merit while corroborating that he agreed with the judgment by the high court which stated that Maduka was bereft of the locus standi to maintain the action.
According to Oyewole, “The affidavits and exhibits placed before the court contradicted the posture of the appellant (Maduka).
“He (Maduka) failed to show that he participated in the primary election organised by the Labour Party which was held on April 16, 2023, from which Ukaegbu Joseph emerged as the winner and cannot be heard to complain about the outcome thereof.”
Oyewole further resolved that Maduka should pay the sum of N250,000,000 to LP and its candidate, Joseph, adding, “The other two issues bordering on academic should be discountenanced.”
The Abure faction of the party had previously dismissed knowing any of Maduka and Joseph while affirming that the party’s governorship candidate is Senator Athan Achonu.
The party added, “The Apapa-led group had hoodwinked and arranged governorship primary for two members of the Labour Party, namely Chief Ukaegbu Ikechukwu Joseph and Sir Basil Maduka, after which Ukaegbu won the contest. Maduka was piqued by the outcome of the fake primary and had gone ahead to challenge the emergence of Ukaegbu. He sued both Ukaegbu and the “Labour Party”.
Reacting to the verdict while addressing journalists in Abuja, Apapa insisted that the court ruling had reaffirmed that Abure was not the authentic party chairman of the party when the primaries were conducted.
Apapa also noted that the Federal High Court order restraining Abure from parading himself as the LP chairman had yet to be vacated.
Apapa said, “The Edo State matter more or less has to do with civil matters. The Excos in Edo suspended him and they went to court because of that, and they don’t have the right to suspend him. I’m talking about the ward level.
“But the FCT (court) restraining order has to do with criminal matters and is between the state and Abure and nobody is above the law. That’s the difference between a civil matter and a criminal matter.
“The order of FCT (court) has not been vacated and that is why on the basis of that the Appeal Court reaffirmed that by the time he conducted his primary, the restraining order was in place and up till today the order is still in force. That’s the difference between the two.”
The factional leader said he was always ready for reconciliation, adding that the presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 election, Peter Obi, acted against the judgment of the court during the party’s mega rally in Benin City held earlier in the week
He said, “From the look of things, you will also agree with me that the day before yesterday (Wednesday), our principal and Abure went to Owerri despite the court order against them that Honourable Ikenga was the right person for Imo State. He went ahead and raised up somebody’s hands, somebody who had been asked not to go ahead by the judgment of Imo State. Today, it has also been reaffirmed by the Appeal Court. I don’t know what he will do again, whether he will reaffirm that again.”
But Abure, reacting in an exclusive phone chat with The PUNCH, said, “It is nothing but fake news. Let me send you our official reaction to the report. Senator Athan Achonu is our candidate. The lower court said it had no jurisdiction to look at the case ab initio and that the status quo should remain.
“But why we even went on appeal was that after the court had denied jurisdiction, the judge went ahead to make few comments. It was on the basis that we didn’t want anybody to capitalise on it by challenging it. The court today now said the appeal was unnecessary because it has denied jurisdiction. That was what they said. So neither the Federal High Court nor the Appeal Court was in their favour. But we know they are used to carrying propaganda and so on.”
Also, the LP National Secretary, Umar Farouk, disclosed that there was no mention of Abure in the ruling passed by the appellate court.
Farouk said, “That report was wrong. There was nowhere in the ruling where Abure was mentioned. Nothing was in the judgment. Somebody somewhere just twisted the judgment. It is wrong,” Farouk stated.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Court of Appeal in Owerri invalidated all the off-season governorship primary election conducted by the National Chairman of the Labour Party, Julius Abure.