Delivering judgement against the APC, Justice Chinwendu Nwogu declared that the ward congresses of Rivers State APC were illegal.
Tony John, Port Harcourt
A Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt, yesterday, nullified the nomination of Tonye Cole as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state on the ground that his nomination was a function of illegality and unconstitutional acts. The court also quashed the state APC senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly primary elections on the premise of the illegal ward congresses. It further nullified the elections of Rivers APC ward executives, local government executives and state executive committee that arose from the illegal ward congresses.
However, the APC has declared that it would appeal the judgement. In its reaction, the state publicity secretary of the party, Chris Finebone, said the party was not surprised that the court set aside the congresses.
Delivering judgement by in a suit filed by Ibrahim Imah and 22 others against the APC, Justice Chinwendu Nwogu declared that the ward congresses of Rivers State APC were illegal because they were not conducted in line with the APC guidelines and constitution. Nwogu set aside the ward congresses of Rivers State APC of May 19, 2018, local government congresses of May 19, 2018, and the 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 were illegal and unconstitutional. Nwogu declared that all those who purchased nomination forms for the ward congresses were entitled to contest the ward congresses of May 19, 2018, but were unjustly excluded by the party.
He said: “The rule by might 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 vs. INEC matter of 2007, said that, having studied the submissions in the matter, he was bound to make consequential orders to ensure that justice was done.
He stated that the high court had 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. He said, 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.
Nwogu said it was 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 was of coordinate jurisdiction with the High Court in Port Harcourt and could sit in appeal over it. He added that the suit filed by Imah preceded that filed at the Abuja High Court by a faction of the Rivers State APC.
Counsel to the APC, Prince Azunda, had moved a motion seeking to stop the reading of the judgement.
However, Nwogu dismissed his application, which he termed a ploy to arrest the judgement.
Following the verdict, the APC no longer has a candidate for the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections in 2019. By implication, the APC also has no state working committee, local government working committees and ward executives.
Meanwhile, Finebone has alleged that the outcome of the judgement confirmed their allegation of a relationship between the factional governorship candidate, Senator Magnus Abe, and the state government.
“It was, therefore, not surprising when Senator Abe gleefully announced the exact ruling of the court on the rally rostrum just about when the judge was still reading his judgement in court. We wish to inform APC members and sympathizers of our great party in Rivers State and across Nigeria to remain calm as we are well prepared in anticipation of today’s ruling and have, therefore, done the needful,” he said.