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Benin High Court Reserves Judgment Until June 25 in Suit Challenging Ize-Iyamu’s Membership of APC, Waiver to Contest Election

An Edo State High Court sitting in Benin will on June 25, 2020 determine whether or not one of the frontline governorship aspirants on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is a member of the party. The court, presided over by Justice Emmanuel Ahamioje will also rule on the validity of the waiver granted him by the National Working Committee of the APC to enable him participate in the governorship election primary of the party coming up June 22.

In a separate suit, the Federal High Court in Benin, will also next week Monday, rule whether Kenneth Asekomhe, factional vice chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Edo State, and Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, disqualified governorship aspirant of the party, have the locus to sustain legal action against the party, both having been expelled from the APC.

The duo, who are plaintiffs in a suit they filed seeking to stop the APC from conducting governorship primary election in the state using the direct mode, were expelled from the party last week for violating the constitution of the party by going to court without first exhausting internal dispute resolution mechanism of the party.

In the suit challenging Ize-Iyamu’s membership of the party, and the waiver granted to him, Justice Ahamioje of High Court 6 reserved judgment to June 25 at Friday’s proceedings after submissions of the counsel to the parties. He however warned lawyers, politicians and their agents against possible attempts to bribe or blackmail him over the political matter. Justice Ahamioje said: “Do not give money to anybody on my behalf. I will never send anybody to collect money for me.”

The suit was filed by a factional Deputy Chairman of Edo APC, Kenneth Asekomhe, who was last week expelled for anti-party activities by the NWC of the party and three other chieftains of APC in the state namely Benjamin Oghumu, Mathew Ogbebor, and Unweni Nosa. They are all loyalists of the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, who on Tuesday resigned his membership of APC, along with his deputy, Philip Shaibu. They both defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on Friday.

Defendants in the suit – APC, its suspended national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and Ize-Iyamu insisted that the court had no jurisdiction to meddle in the internal affairs of the party, in line with the constitution of APC.

The lead counsel to Ize-Iyamu, Henry Ogbodu, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in his submission at Friday’s sitting, declared that the claimants should stop wasting the court’s time, describing Obaseki’s loyalists as busybodies and interlopers, who opted to mischievously harass his client.

APC and Oshiomhole’s lead counsel, Kingsley Obamogie urged the presiding judge to dismiss the suit for lacking merit, while insisting that the claimants had no locus standi to file the suit since they were not governorship aspirants of APC.

The lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Ken Mozia (SAN), urged Justice Ahamioje to discountenance the arguments of the defendants’ counsel. In the originating summons, the claimants asked Edo high court to determine the following questions: Whether article 31(2) of APC’s Constitution is not in conflict with Section 177(c) of the Nigerian Constitution as amended, as it relates to the qualification for election to the office of a governor of a state; whether having regard to the provision of Section 177(c) of the Nigerian Constitution, the APC can validly grant a waiver to Ize-Iyamu to make him eligible to contest in the party primaries; and whether having regard to the provisions of Articles 31(2) and Articles 31(3)(ii) of the APC Constitution, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (and the NWC) can grant a waiver to Pastor Ize-Iyamu, without the approval of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC and without Pastor Ize-Iyamu formally applying for such a waiver through his ward, LGA, state and zonal executive committees of the APC.

Mozia would also want the court to determine whether a waiver purportedly granted by Oshiomhole (and the NWC) to Ize-Iyamu on or about 21-5-20 or any other date was in gross violation of Section 177(c) of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 31(2) and Article 31(3) of the extant 2014 amended Constitution of the APC is not null, void and of no effect.

The claimants stated that if the four questions were answered in the negative and resolved in their favour, they sought the following reliefs from the trial court: A declaration that Article 31(2) of APC’s Constitution as amended is in conflict with section 177(c) of the Nigerian Constitution as it relates to the qualification for election to the office of a governor of a state and is therefore null and void. A declaration that having regard to Section 177(c) of the Nigerian Constitution, the APC cannot validly grant a waiver to Pastor Ize-Iyamu to make him eligible to contest the APC primary election, with a view to nominating him as its candidate to contest the 2020 governorship elections in Edo state.

Alternatively, a declaration that the NWC of APC cannot grant any waiver to Ize-Iyamu to make him eligible to contest the primary election to select the APC candidate without approval of APC’s NEC. A declaration that having regard to the provisions of Articles 31(2) and 31(3)(ii) of the APC’s Constitution, Oshiomhole (and the APC’s NWC) cannot validly grant a waiver to Ize-Iyamu, without the approval of APC’s NEC and without Ize-Iyamu formally applying for such waiver through his claimed ward, LGA, state and zonal committees of APC.

The plaintiffs also sought a declaration that any waiver purportedly granted by Oshiomhole (and the APC’s NWC) on 21-5-20 or any other date in gross violation of Section 177(c) of the Nigerian Constitution and Articles 31(2) and Articles 31(3)(ii) of the extant amended 2014 APC Constitution is null, void and of no effect. A declaration that the waiver purportedly granted by the APC’s NWC to Ize-Iyamu to contest the primary election, as scheduled is null, void and of no effect.

The plaintiffs therefore sought orders of the court restraining Ize-Iyamu from parading himself as an aspirant entitled to participate in the APC primary election fixed for June 22, 2020, from recognising him as an aspirant in the primary election, and from granting him a waiver to participate in the primary.

When the case came up on Friday, Rolan Otaru, SAN, counsel to the second defendant in the suit (the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole), prayed the court to quash the case, stating that the parties involved had been screened out of the primaries, while others were expelled from the party.

The presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Umar, having listened to his arguments, adjourned the case to Monday June 22. The Judge also dismissed an application filed by Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Pius Odubu and Osaro Obazee, seeking to be joined in the suit. Counsel to the applicants, Douglas Ogbankwa had prayed the court that all the aspirants cleared by the party for the primaries coming up on June 22 should be allowed to be joined in the suit.

He said it was their rights and that anything short of that was a breach of their fundamental human rights. Ogbankwa said his clients were the only persons recognised by law and the party and that nobody had come to contest that and therefore, they deserved the right to be joined in the suit.

The judge, having listened to his arguments, dismissed his application on the ground that the relief soughtin the originating summons did not show the reason for them to be joined in the case. The Judge also struck out the application from the 4th defendant (the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu) to be withdrawn from the case. Counsel to the IG, M. O. Omosun told the court of his decision to withdraw from the case.

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