From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
Labour Party (LP) in Enugu state yesterday said that the ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja ordering the repeat of its governorship primary, contradicted the spirit of the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
The party said it was on that premise that it decided to appeal against the judgment which it also faulted on nine grounds.
It also alleged that the development was orchestrated to slow down its efforts to win the 2023 elections in the state, accusing the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state of being behind it.
Last week the Abuja Court had nullified the governorship primary that produced Hon. Chijioke Edeoga as the party’s candidate holding that the plaintiff, Evaristus Nnaji was sidelined from the contest and asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the repeat primary within 14 days from the date of the ruling.
But the State LP accused PDP of using its surrogates in the guise of members of the party to institute actions against its candidates, so as to dwarf its campaigns, insisting that there was no going back in dethroning the party in the 2023 elections.
The Senatorial candidate of the party for Enugu North, Chief Okey Ezea, who addressed newsmen said that the appeal was necessitated by the gaps in the ruling, insisting that there was no basis for the decision the court took.
According to Ezea who is also a lawyer, the court allowed itself to be drawn into a matter that ordinarily negated the spirit of the electoral act, noting that Edeoga who was the product of the annulled primary was not listed in the case.
He said, “In the case of Evaristus Nnaji against Labour Party and INEC, Nnaji first went to the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt and sued Labour Party and INEC and Chijioke Edeoga as the third respondent and he tried to obtain exparte order against the parties. But when it was not possible, he filed a notice of discontinuance and we thought that was the end of the matter. We didn’t hear anything again until the Labour Party headquarters was served with originating summons.
“This time around, he didn’t join Chijioke Edeoga. He sued only the Labour Party and INEC. And in his case, he told the court that he paid the Labour Party to be made the sole governorship candidate in Enugu state and this was after Edeoga had emerged.
“He alleged that Labour Party officials collected N25m from him under the illegal agreement to make him the sole candidate in the election. But as we know in law, this is an illegal contract and no court of law with competent jurisdiction will be asked to enforce an illegal contract. It is a contract against public policy because there is no provision of the electoral act where you can contract with party officials to be made a sole candidate.
“Not only that, he did not join the gubernatorial candidate of the Labour Party who had earlier emerged and his name forwarded to INEC on the 4th of August. Giving the principle of law, a court cannot give an order that should affect a party that was not represented in the proceedings. Not only that, the Federal High Court practice direction 2022, paragraph three, stipulates that anybody who is filing an election matter must join the person who won that primary, whose name has been transferred to INEC. So Chijioke Edeoga who won that primary and whose name has been transferred to INEC under that paragraph should have been joined. So the court gave an order against his primary election without hearing from him. It is against the rule under section 31 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
Noting that INEC was fully represented during the primary that produced Edeoga, and the report of the officials of the commission on the conduct of the exercise was there for anyone to see he said, “We have appealed. We developed nine grounds of appeal. We said the court erred in law by holding that Nnaji is an aspirant. We also said that the court erred in law by not holding that the action was incompetent having not joined necessary parties in the matter.”