Supreme Court strikes out suit to compel PDP to zone presidency to South East

Supreme Court strikes out suit to compel PDP to zone presidency to South East

By Taiye Agbaje, Abuja.

 

The Supreme Court on Friday struck out a suit seeking to compel the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to zone the nomination of its presidential candidate to the South East geopolitical zone of the country.

 

The court, in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Adamu Jauro, struck out the suit on the grounds that it lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

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A presidential aspirant of PDP, Cosmos Ndukwe, who is a former Deputy Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, had sued the PDP; the Chairman of the party’s Primary Election Planning Committee and the National Secretary, Sen. Samuel Anyanwu and others, praying that the scheduled primary election of the party be halted.

 

He also prayed for an order to compel the PDP to uphold its zoning and rotatory policy.

 

Ndukwe, specifically sought an order of the court to compel the PDP to zone the nomination of its presidential candidate to the South East geopolitical zone.

 

However, Justice Jauro held that the suit was not justiciable on the grounds that the nomination of candidates for election was the internal affairs of political parties.

 

Jauro invoked Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act to give final resolution of all issues raised in the suit to prevent them from becoming statute barred.

 

Ndukwe, who is currently the Abia State Commissioner of Trade and Investment, had accused the PDP of refusing to honour its zoning arrangement.

 

He said that the party ought to have zoned its presidential ticket for the 2023 presidential election to South East.

 

He was also aggrieved over his disqualification from participating in the presidential primary election on the grounds of alleged anti-party activities.

 

Ndukwe had filed along with the substantive suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/508/2022, an ex-parte application, for an order to restrain the PDP from going ahead with the primary election until his suit was determined.

 

Recall that on April 28, Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, declined to grant the ex-parte motion seeking to stop the planned primary election, as required by plaintiff’s lawyer, Paul Erokoro, SAN.

 

Instead, Justice Okorowo ordered the PDP and the other defendants to appear before the court on May 5 to show cause on why the primary election should not be stopped, in view of the pending suit by Ndukwe.

 

Dissatisfied with order to show cause on why its primary election should not be stopped, the PDP and others approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja with a request that the ruling of the high court be set aside on the grounds of jurisdiction and competence of the suit.

 

In the appeal filed in Anyanwu’s name, the appellants claimed that the high court judge erred in law by denying them fair hearing, in breach of Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.

 

They argued that the plaintiff’s originating summons was not ripe for hearing and that the time for the defendants to file counter-affidavit against the suit had not lapsed when the judge gave the order.

 

The appellants claimed that the court erred in law when it failed to aver its mind to the provisions of Section 84 (15) of the Electoral Act 2022, before making the order to show cause.

 

They also stated that the judge erred by not directing the plaintiff to put them on notice but rather, directed them to show cause on an ex-parte application allegedly anchored on an incompetent originating summons.

 

The appellants asked the Court of Appeal to void and set aside the order of the Federal High Court of April 28, asking them to show cause on why the primary election should not be stopped.

 

The Court of Appeal, in its decision of July 15, agreed with PDP and others that the Federal High Court ought not to have entertained the suit on grounds of lack of requisite jurisdiction.

 

Ndukwe, on his part, felt dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal decision and proceeded to Supreme Court to have his suit entertained.

 

Justice Jauro, in the Supreme Court decision, however,  held that the Court of Appeal was right in holding that the Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to intervene in the matter.

 

He held that several judicial precedents had been established to the effect that selection and nomination of candidates for elections were internal affairs of political parties and that no court should dabble into it.

 

However, rather than remitting the case to the high court for determination of the substantive matter, Justice Jauro invoked Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act to give final judgment, striking out the suit for want of jurisdiction and competence of the suit.

 

Other Supreme Court justices in the panel are Amina Augie who presided, Mohammed Garba, Tijani Abubakar and Emmanuel Agim.

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