2019: Court Voids Rivers APC Congresses, Nominations …Abe urges APC NWC to obey court judgment

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The hopes of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to wrest Rivers State from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) suffered a major setback as the state High Court sitting in Port Harcourt on Wednesday declared all nominations made by the state chapter of the APC towards the 2019 elections a void.

The court also nullified all the elections of state APC ward, local government and state executive committees that arose from the “illegal ward congresses” of May 19, 2018.

This is as a factional governorship candidate of the party in the state and the Senator representing Rivers South East senatorial district in the National Assembly, Magnus Abe, urged the party to respect the court judgment and ensure that the views of members count in the affairs of the party.

Delivering judgment on Wednesday in a suit filed by Ibrahim Imah and 22 others against the APC, the Presiding Judge, Justice Chiwendu Nwogu, declared that the ward congresses of the state APC were illegal because they were not conducted in line with the APC guidelines and constitution.

Imah and 22 others had gone to court to challenge their exclusion from ward congresses of the party after purchasing forms from the state secretariat of the party.

Justice Nwogu set aside the ward congresses of Rivers State APC on May 19, 2018, local government congresses of May 19, 2018 and state congress of the party of May 21, 2018.

He stated that all actions taken by the APC during the pendency of the suit have been set aside because they are illegal and unconstitutional.

He declared that all those who purchased nomination forms for the ward congresses were entitled to contest the ward congresses of May 19 but were unjustly excluded by the party.

According to the Justice, "The rule must be checked by the rule of law. We must restore the hope of the common man in the justice system."

Nwogu, who based his judgement on the Amaechi versus INEC Matter of 2007, noted that having studied the submissions in the matter, he was bound to make consequential orders to ensure that justice was done in the case.

He stated that the High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter as an appeal filed by the respondents at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, to stop proceedings on the suit was rejected by the Appellate Court on September 21, 2018.

Nwogu stated that all through the hearing, the APC filed no counter-affidavit denying the facts of the matter as presented by the applicants in the originating summons.

He said it is trite law that facts not disputed are deemed admitted.

On the suit filed in an Abuja High Court by a faction of the APC, Nwogu declared that the court is of coordinate jurisdiction with the High Court in Port Harcourt and cannot sit in appeal over it.  The Justice added that the suit filed by Ibrahim Imah preceded that of the Abuja High Court by a faction of the Rivers State APC.

Earlier, before the delivery of the judgment, counsel to the APC, Prince Azunda, moved a motion seeking to stop the delivery of the judgment.

However, Nwogu dismissed his application which he termed as a ploy to arrest the judgement.

Addressing journalists shortly after the judgment, counsel to the aggrieved APC members, Henry Bello, hailed the judgment as victory for democracy and the rule of law.

Bello said: "According to the constitution, not according to the caprices of the elite, the court has nullified and set aside the primary elections conducted indirectly by APC on September 29, 2018."

However, counsel to the APC, Prince Azunda, insisted that the state High Court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the matter, adding that the judgment was a nullity.

Azunda said: "Once a preliminary objection relates to jurisdiction, no matter how it is presented, it must be considered by the court. This is so that the decision of court conducted without the requisite jurisdiction is a nullity. The judgement that was just delivered is a judgement of nullity."

Reacting to the judgment, a factional governorship candidate of the party in Rivers State, Senator Abe, said he warned the party of consequences of shutting some members out of the electoral process, and called on the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to respect the judgment of the court.

Addressing a rally yesterday at the Igboukwu Field, Port Harcourt, Abe noted that there had been situations where some big wigs of the party had gone on radio and television to announce their non-compliance with court judgments.


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