At the close of yesterday, after pondering some of the comments I read on the social media, I woke up with the mindset to rather enlighten and inform because most people are actually ignorant of the issues surrounding the burning concerns in PDP Cross River State. Funny enough people on both sides of the divide. This is understandable, given the many cases in Court, the incoherence of the National Working Committee (NWC) with regards to the simple matter of party executives and of course the Government’s refusal to play by the rules of the game unless it’s “victory” for her!
The facts and issues first!
1. The wards and chapter Excos of the party that were elected in February this year were bugged down by some controversies until all activities leading to the state congress were terminated due to covid-19 pandemic.
Subsequently, sometimes in April or so the list of the executive as approved by the NWC was released alongside other state’s Excos for inauguration. The list was essentially of the Excos from the Governor and the National Assembly members. The Governor protested that he as the Leader of the party has to have 100% of all the Excos or nothing!
The Excos were inaugurated despite his protest as the process was well on it’s way. The inauguration was adjudged as being in order and due process followed as set out in the guidelines, given the covid-19 situation.
In all subsequent hearings and inquiries conducted by the NWC, it was clearly evident that the list of Excos is the legitimate outcome of the Congresses, promoting the NWC (NOS) to stamp it “Authentic”! giving rise to the acronym we have adopted to subsequently address the said list of Excos.
2. The Legal Battles begin…
Some chapter Chairmen, were fronted (ostensibly by the PDP Cross River State and allegedly sponsored by the Governor), as litigants the same day and went to the High Court in Calabar to challenge the authenticity of the Exco. They were granted an Injunction on an ex parte application, restraining the PDP from inaugurating the Excos that had been inaugurated earlier that morning against all known legal process.
Subsequently, some chapter Chairmen who were inaugurated applied to the Court to be joined in the suit as defendants so that they could defend their Election.
Justice Eneji granted the said request as he should.
In addition he granted an Order discharging his earlier ex parte order restraining the party from inaugurating the Excos. When, however Counsel to the defendants went to obtain the written order, the judge possibly realized that he had contravened the understanding he must have had with the Governor’s People and refused to sign the Order..
Before the next adjourned date, to the utter embarassment of all, the Judge had allowed the Governor’s People to sneak back and again apply for and obtain the same order he had earlier discharged!
On the next adjourned date, counsel for the defending PDP chapter Chairmen, Barrister Mba Okweni ( SAN) leading Attah Ochinke, former Attorney General and others, applied for a transfer of the case from Justice Eneji being that he had clearly acted in a manner that could not guarantee a fair trial. The judge granted the order as he should and transferred the case file to Justice Elias Abua.
Justice Abua was similarly made to issue another ex parte order restraining the defendants from inaugurating the Excos, against all known practices because the inauguration had long taken place some two months or so earlier, making the urgency for which such an order should be granted non existing!
Subsequently, Justice Elias Abua sitting as vacation judge, after sneaking in an order extending the ex parte order restraining the defendants, being that the Courts had entered into their annual Vacation, under pressure from some quarters was again petitioned and decided to wash his hands off the case pleading his integrity!
The matter was transferred to the second Vacation Court sitting at Ikom.
3. High Court Ikom.
At the resumed sitting at Ikom, the Plaintiffs (PDP Lawyers), surprisingly came and requested for out of Court settlement. It was granted but no efforts were made to create an avenue for settlement. Instead the Plaintiff again sneaked behind the defendants and applied for another ex parte order against the defendants! The judge found it ridiculous and declined and instead offered to put the defendants on notice as should be, being that it was the same Plaintiffs who asked for an adjournment to settle out of court!
At the resumed hearing yesterday, the Judge decided also to wash his hands off the case! He returned the case file to the Chief Judge, whenever one is appointed..
4. High Court Abuja..
While all the drama was playing out in the Cross River State judiciary, some of the inaugurated chapter Chairmen also decided to take an action at the Abuja High Court, to protect their Mandate.
They successfully obtained an ex parte order restraining the PDP headquarters from interfering with their Election having been duly elected and sworn in as the Exco of the party. The party subsequently filed a defense and protested that order, but the Court extended the Order pending the determination of case.
The Party petitioned the Chief Judge of The FCT judiciary and he directed that the case be transferred to Calabar. Subsequently that directive was rescinded and later reinstated, bringing the case to Ikom vacation Court too.
Nevertheless, the order restraining the party from interfering with the list of Excos as sworn in remains in effect.
5. Federal High Court Port Harcourt..
As has been said above, the Courts all over the country started their vacation while these legal gymnastics were playing out. Consequently, litigants can only have resort to what we call a vacation Court. Few courts are usually left behind to attend to matters that may arise during the legal vacation. In Cross River State, they are Justice Elias Abua in Calabar and the second Judge at Ikom whose name eludes me momentarily.
For the Federal High Courts it is in zones. This year the vacation courts are in Port Harcourt for the South South and South East, the Abuja for the North and Lagos for the South West. That’s how we found ourselves in PortHarcourt.
6. I first approached the Federal High Court PortHarcourt seeking amongst other things to set aside my purported disqualification from contesting at the state congress and an order restraining the party from interfering with the list of delegates to that congress as that would jeopardize my chances at the Congress. Since that matter is sub judice and as a party in the case I will not comment much on it. Suffice it to say that one interloper in Pius Awah wrote a letter to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court alleging that the judge had been compromised, on the day judgement was to have been delivered. I describe Mr. Awah as such because he is neither a party in the case nor is PDP Cross River State. My purported disqualification is from Abuja and so I sued PDP headquarters. He has also forgotten that he is no longer the State legal adviser of the party their tenures having expired since May. Holding on desperately as “Caretaker Committee” doesn’t confer him any status as “Legal Adviser”! Maybe he doesn’t know. In any case the National Legal Adviser disowned him in open Court as having no such authorization to write such a letter on behalf of the Party! We are awaiting further directives from the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt.
7. Honorable Jarigbe at the Federal High Court PortHarcourt
Honorable Jarigbe again sought the order of the Court restraining the party from interfering with the list of party Excos as there was information that the NWC was contemplating such an action under pressure from the Governor of CRS and alleged. The order was granted..
After Honorable Jarigbe’s clearance , for some strange reason, Hon. Pius Awah wrote a letter to the Screening Apeal Committee claiming that the PDP in CRS didn’t clear Honorable Jarigbe or something to that incoherent effect.
On the basis of this, the so called screening Appeal Committee purported to have disqualified Honorable Jarigbe, for having taken the party to court, against their clear mandate.
Honorable Jarigbe appealed to the NWC alleging bad faith. He also filed another action at the Federal High Court to set aside the purported disqualification. The order was granted, clearing the way for him to contest.
8. The NWC in embarrassment, apparently, decided to turn the process against Honorable Jarigbe. They looked the other way and accepted the result from a faction of the panel against the background of unwarranted intimidation, violence and death of at least two delegates to the Congress and without consideration for the INEC monitoring Report. Clearly, the panel did not use the authentic list of party delegates as confirmed by the NWC and ordered by the Courts.
9. Honorable Jarigbe promptly went back to the Federal High Court and obtained an Order stopping the Party from forwarding the name of the purported winner to INEC as well as stopping INEC from accepting any name forwarded apart from his own, pending the determination of the case in court.
The matter comes up today in PortHarcourt
10.With this I hope you can separate the myths from the facts.
We did not choose to go to Court in PortHarcourt because of anyone. We went to the Federal High Court with Jurisdiction to hear our case.
In all the Courts we have been to we have won. Those who didn’t have the courage to do justice to our cases as required at least had the decency to wash their hands off the cases, maybe not unlike Pontius Pilate!
Those who deceive you that Honorable Jarigbe is out of contention are telling you half truths. The NWC is unfortunately acting a script to justify certain allegations that we would rather not believe because their exalted position demands equal treatment of aspirants so as to put forward the most acceptable candidate for the party. That is the only way to guarantee victory at the polls and ensure that Justice is served..
Venatius Ikem, a former Guber aspirant, served as National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Venatius Ikem and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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