From Joseph Obukata, Warri
A Federal High Court sitting in Warri, Delta State has struck out a notice of discontinuance of a lawsuit challenging the election of Mr Michael Diden, alias Ejele, as the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for Delta South Senatorial District.
The court also dismissed a motion for a joinder filled by Robinson Ariyo, Eqs, counsel to one of the aspirants in the May 22, PDP primary and a former House of Representatives member, Hon Daniel Reyenieju.
At the resuming hearing of the case which was billed for judgment, counsel to the plaintiff, Babs Akinwumi, Eqs, who brought the suit on the behest of Chief Oghogho Ayodele Ithihiwa, informed the court that a motion for withdrawal of the substantive suit challenging the 1st defendant, Ejele’s declaration by 3rd defendant, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of primary election conducted by the 2nd defendant, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was before the court for the ruling.
Counsel to the 1st defendant represented by Uyoyou Egware, Eqs, and Richard Omare, Eqs, said that they were not opposed to the withdrawal notice but counsel to Hon Reyenieju, Ariyo, Eqs, who was not a party to the suit, informed the court that a motion for joinder has been filed and both parties to the suit served.
Besides the motion for joinder, Ariyo had in an application and affidavit before the court, alleged discrepancies in the West Africa Examination Council certificate and date of birth of the PDP candidate, Michael Diden, urging the court to disqualify him and declare Reyenieju as the winner of the primary election, having emerged the second position during the party’s primary.
He argued that it would amount to a breach of fair hearing for judgment to be delivered on the substantive suit when the joinder motion and application are undecided, urging the court to strike out the discontinuance suit for abuse of court processes.
According to him, “Our application for opposition to withdrawal is not premised to oppose the rights of the Plaintiff but our grouse is the manner in which the Plaintiff went about the notice of withdrawal which tends to abuse the court processes.
Ruling on the motions, the presiding judge, Justice Okon Abang, said that the notice of discontinuance dated 31st August 2022, is incompetence and accordingly struck out. He said that the plaintiff’s suit subsists.
As regards the later day motion dated 23rd day of September filed by Chief Ariyo, applicant counsel seeking to join in the suit, the Judge ruled that the application is also incompetence and hereby struck out.
“Hon Reyenieju is not yet a party to the suit. It is only a party to a suit that can file an application. He can only file an application seeking to join. He has no locus to file the application dated the 23rd day of September because he is not yet joined in the suit, the judge ruled.
He ruled that the applicant must be joined as a party to the suit before the substantive suit is considered, saying “the applicant cannot jump the gun”.
He said that the application by Chief Ariyo was laced with serious fundamental irregularities and was strange, saying that there can never be a joint pre-election action.
Justice Abang said that the Electoral Act 2022 and the 1999 Constitution doesn’t envisage more than one plaintiff seeking redress in a pre-election matter, saying that the relevant provision doesn’t permit a joint action.
“The applicant (Reyenieju) cannot seek to use judiciary process through the backdoor to gain a relief which he ought to have legitimately claimed within 14 days from the date the primary election was declared. He cannot bring an application for joinder, claiming a relief which is barred by statute. Therefore, the application lacks merit, is a sheer judicial waste of time and accordingly dismissed with cost of N100, 000 each awarded in favour of the 1st and 2nd defendant paid by the applicant (Reyenieju).“
Recall that Ejele, the former chairman of the Delta Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) polled 176 votes out of 272 eligible delegates accredited to participate in the party’s primary, while a former House of Representatives member, Hon Daniel Reyenieju, a finance expert, Chief Oghogho Ayodele Ithihiwa and one-time Speaker of the state assembly, Rt Hon Kent Omatsone with a far distance behind with 49, 46 and 2 votes, respectively.