UPDATE: Court Restrains INEC From Recognising APC Candidates In Rivers

Updates on happenings

…APC, PDP Reacts

A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt on Monday restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from recognising candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2019 general elections in Rivers State.

The court also granted a mandatory order on INEC to remove APC candidates from the ballot papers and other electoral materials for the 2019 general elections on the state.

Delivering judgements on two separate suits filed by Senator Magnus Ngei Abe and others as well as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Justice Kolawole Omotosho, also nullified all nominations of the APC in Rivers State for the forthcoming elections in 2019.

Omotosho declared that the APC cannot participate in the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections during the 2019 polls in the state.

He stated that the Direct and indirect primaries of the Rivers State APC are illegal, null and void, pointing that both the Direct and Indirect primaries were held during the pendancy of the suit at the Rivers State High Court.

Reacting to the two judgements, Counsel to Senator Magnus Abe, Mr Henry Bello said the court emphasised obedience to court orders, saying that the nullification is the consequence of the imposition of candidates.

Bello stated that that Abe, who was one of the APC governorship aspirants, and others will appeal the judgment.

Also speaking, Counsel to APC, Emenike Ebete said that the APC will challenge the two judgments, adding that the APC will also file papers for stay of execution of the judgments.

Ebete expressed dissatisfaction that the court barred Rivers APC candidates from parading themselves as nominees for the elections.

Reacting to the two judgements, the leadership of APC in the state, said the trial court missed the mark in some of its decisions, adding that with the judgements, Abe and other are convinced that they were not candidates of the party.

Publicity Secretary of APC in the state, Chris Finebone, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt today, said the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party never authorized or conducted direct primaries in the state.

The statement reads on part; “We have just received excerpts of the judgements delivered by Hon. Justice Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt in two separate suits. One was filed by Senator Magnus Abe and 49 others seeking the court to declare them candidates of the APC in 2019 General Election in Rivers State, and another filed by the PDP seeking the court to declare that the APC has no candidates for the election.

“We strongly feel that the Trial Court missed the mark in some of its decisions. Firstly, we totally agree with the Court that Senator Magnus Abe and the 48 other members of the Party who claimed to have emerged through an alleged direct primary election, were not and therefore could not be declared candidates of the APC in the 2019 General Election in Rivers State.

“This was because the National Body of the APC never authorized or conducted the alleged direct primary as required by its constitution and guidelines neither did INEC monitor same.

“However, we do not agree with the Court that the Davies Ibiamu Ikanya and Peter Odike led Executive Committee of the Party in Rivers State was still subsisting. The APC has the powers to dissolve its Executive Committee and that power was exercised on 21st of May, 2018.

“The APC having dissolved that Exco, it ceased to exist and could not be resurrected, even if the Court finds, albeit wrongly, that there was no valid Congress to replace the dissolved Exco

“We know, as it is the law in Nigeria today, that APC as a Political Party has the absolute powers to schedule, reschedule or even cancel any of its congresses. The Party effectively terminated the ward, LGA and State Congresses of 5th, 12th and 19th May 2018 respectively. “The APC Primary Election based on the unchallenged results and outcome of subsequent APC Congresses were lawful and valid.

“The PDP brought a suit seeking the court to declare that the candidates of the APC were not validly nominated. The Trial Court agreed with that position and made Order in that regard. With all due respect to the Court, we totally disagree with its reasoning

“As the laws remain today, the issue of nomination of candidates of a Political Party remains the exclusive right and preserve of that political party, and any dispute arising thereto also remains within that political party and its aggrieved members.

“Under the Electoral Act 2010, a third party (PDP) can only challenge the nomination of the APC candidates as prescribed in Section 31(5) & (6), or challenge the return of APC candidates in accordance with Section 138(1) of the Electoral Act.

“Nothing more imaginary can fit into the contemplation of the Nigerian Electoral laws.

The PDP’s case did not satisfy any of these conditions or circumstances.”

“It is on this note that we strongly believe that APC will get Victory in the superior court. We have accordingly instructed our lawyers to review the case and file the appeals immediately, in order not to temper or jeopardize with the already existing legal rights of our candidates before INEC.

“We therefore call on all members of the APC in Rivers State to remain calm, focused, undaunted and go about their electioneering business with equanimity. We believe that at the end victory will be served.”

In his own reaction, governorship candidate of APC in the state, Pastor Tonye Cole, said he and other candidates of the party were not giving up despite the judgements of the Federal High Court.

Cole, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt by the spokesman of Tonye Cole Campaign Organization (TCCO), Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, said the party will challenge the two judgements in the Court of Appeal.

The statement reads in part: “Today, Monday 7th January, 2019 the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt delivered a ruling in respect of the matter brought before it by Senator Magnus Abe and 43 others.

“The Federal High Court also ruled on Monday on the matter filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which sought a declaration that the APC has no candidates.

“On the matter brought before the Court by Abe and 43 others, our lawyers have briefed us that the direct and indirect primaries conducted by factions of the APC in Rivers State during the pendancy of the matter before Justice Chinwendu Nwogu have been set aside.

“The Court held that until a superior court of competent jurisdiction overturns the decision of Justice Chinwendu of the Rivers State High Court, it would be deemed under the law that the APC has no candidate(s).

“We are already in court challenging the judgment of Justice Chinwendu Nworgu of the Rivers State High Court

“On the matter brought by the PDP, we have learnt that the Federal High Court ordered INEC to remove the names of the APC candidates from anything to do with the forthcoming general elections in the State.

“Our position, after consultations with our lawyers, is that we shall challenge the order in an appellate court. Although we were not favoured by the decision, our faith in the country’s judicial system remains unshaken.

“We believe that we have sufficient grounds on which to appeal the decisions of the Federal High Court as well as the ruling of the Rivers State High Court.

“It is clear from the ruling that Abe and his supporters have no locus. It is our hope that they would return and join us. It is by now obvious to all that the fight is between the APC and the PDP. No use can be achieved by their continued appearance in court.

“While we urge our supporters to remain calm, we wish to emphasise that we will not give up in our sincere fight to secure justice on behalf of ourselves and the good people of Rivers State who are solidly in search of a transparent and accountable system that is responsive.

“Driven by our faith in God; strengthened by our believe in the sanctity of the judiciary, we believe that we are still on the right track in looking for remedies through the courts.

“We are acutely aware that those who are busy placing legal hurdles on the way know that the APC in Rivers State is poised to win the 2019 elections.

“What our opponents are doing in partnership with some members of the political wing in the judiciary is to dampen the believe of our teeming supporters in our ability to take them to the promised land.

“We assure Rivers people that we will not be deterred by the desperate efforts that are being made by our opponents to place impediments on our path. Our eyes are set on victory through the ballot box.”

In its own reaction, the leadership of PDP in the state, described the two judgements as a victory for the rule of law and the people of Rivers State, adding that the judgements will douse tension and promote peace in the state.

A statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday by the Director, Information and Communications, PDP Campaign Council, Hon. Emma Okah, said APC’s past involvement in elections in the state has been characterised by recurring violence, rigging and breakdown of law and order.

The statement reads in part: “The Rivers State PDP Campaign Council says the court judgments restraining the INEC from recognising any candidate for the APC in the 2019 general elections in Rivers State as a victory for the rule of law and the people of Rivers State.

“The court judgments will douse tension and promote peace in Rivers State as the APC’s past involvement in elections in the State has been characterised by recurring violence, rigging and breakdown of law and order.

“Rivers people especially members of the PDP are relieved. They not in a hurry to forget, the violence they suffered in the hands of the APC in collusion with the INEC and security agencies in the legislative houses re-run elections in 2016 and the recent Port Harcourt 3 State Constituency Bye election.”

Okah, who is also the Commissioner for Information and Communications, noted that the local government council elections were peaceful because the APC did not participate.

He said the judgement has diffused fears in the minds of the voters as the PDP in Rivers State has been under fresh threat of the combined weight of the INEC and security agencies in collaboration with the APC which may be unleashed in the 2019 general elections.

The Director of Information and Communication said: “The APC cannot win free and fair elections in Rivers State. Rivers State is an anointed State and Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has never hidden his support for the Churches and God’s ministry and that is why the APC’s plan to defeat the electoral will of the people of Rivers State has been humbled by the great God who owns all powers.”

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