By Ushang Ewa
Emmanuel Ibeshi, a gubernatorial aspirant of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) in Cross River State has filed a NGN2 billion suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge his disqualification from the party’s September 29, 2018 gubernatorial primary.
The PDP, Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade and the Independent National Electoral Commission were joined as defendants in the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/1268/2018 and filed by the plaintiff on Wednesday.
The Punch reports that he is seeking the court’s orders to reverse his disqualification; nullification of the September 29th primaries which will pave way for a fresh primary that he will participate in; the restraining of INEC from accepting Mr. Ayade as the governorship candidate of the PDP in Cross River and the award of a total of NGN2.194 billion as damages and other costs he claimed to have incurred in pursuit of his governorship ambition on the platform of the PDP.
In his statement of claim accompanying his writ of summons, the plaintiff said he spent huge sums preparatory for the primary, garnered support from across the state, and was coasting to victory before he was unjustly disqualified by the party.
Ibeshi who said he procured and submitted his nomination forms along with three other aspirants to the PDP, also averred that the party then set up a Zonal Screening Committee which sat in PortHarcourt, Rivers State on September 22, 2018 to evaluate the eligibility of each of the aspirants of the party from all states in the South-South geo-political zone.
“It was at this screening exercise that the first signs of collusion between the defendants to exclude the plaintiff from the contest manifested.
“The Screening Committee managed to disqualify all other aspirants that filed nomination forms to contest against the 2nd defendant (Ayade), leaving only the 2nd defendant as the sole candidate for the party primaries for the governorship ticket.
“This outcome was actively canvassed by the 2nd defendant who complained publicly and bitterly that he was the only sitting governor of the 1st defendant in the South-South Zone, who was being challenged for the party ticket; all other governors were being returned unopposed.
“The reason provided by the Zonal Screening Committee for the disqualification of the plaintiff was that he did not attach his passport photograph to his party membership card.
“Otherwise, the plaintiff was unblemished and impeccably qualified to contest for the office of governor under the Constitution of Nigeria.
“The excuse given by the Zonal Screening Committee is untenable under the Electoral Act as the placement of passport photograph on the party membership card is not a requirement for qualification to contest the election under the relevant statutes.”
The plaintiff, through his counsel, Godwin Adole, therefore, sought among other prayers, a declaration that the PDP having collected huge sums of money from him as the cost of nomination forms and putting him to serious expenses campaigning for support from among party members, could not have validly excluded him from the primary.
He also sought another declaration that the purported emergence of Ayade as the PDP’s governorship candidate “from the very unconstitutional process that excluded him was illegal and void under the law.
He, therefore, sought an order nullifying the governorship primary process “as it relates to Cross River State, same being unconstitutional, null and void.”
He sought an order setting aside the disqualification of the plaintiff by the 1st defendant, and for the proper conduct of the party primary elections by the 1st defendant for the governorship ticket of the party in Cross River State, which primary election shall be contested between the 2nd defendant and the plaintiff.”
He also sought an order restraining the INEC from accepting or acting on the submission of Ayade’s name by the PDP as governorship candidate for Cross River State for the 2019 general elections.
In the alternative, he sought NGN1bn against the defendants and in his favor for breach of his “fundamental right to fair hearing.”
He sought another sum of NGN194m being the cost of nomination forms and campaign expenses incurred by him prior to his disqualification from the primary.
He also sought the sum of NGN500m as general damages against the defendants for breach of the contractual obligation, and another sum of NGN500m against Ayade “for inducing and instigating the 1st defendant to breach its legal and contractual obligations to the plaintiff by pressuring the 1st defendant to disqualify the plaintiff from participation in party primaries for the governorship ticket of the 1st defendant in Cross River State.”
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