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Sunday, 8 December 2013

PDP’s Tired Card: Overreaching the Courts



The PDP is on a collision course with the administration of justice, writes Chukwuma Ekomaru SAN

History will always repeat itself in a nation where the political class has a predilection for impunity, disrespect for court orders and the rule of Law.
Senator Ifeanyi Ararume wanted to be Governor of Imo State. As a civilised man he went to court and fought his case up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. On April 5, 2007, the Supreme Court held that Senator Ararume is the authentic PDP Governorship candidate of Imo State and not Chief Charles Ugwu. How did PDP react to the Supreme Court decision in Ararume case?
On April 10, 2007 exactly five days after the Supreme Court decision, the National Working Committee of Peoples Democratic Party expelled Senator Ifeanyi Araraume from the party. On that same day, the National Executive Committee of PDP met and ratified the expulsion of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume.
On that same April 10, 2007 the then Head of State, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the National Chairman of PDP Senator Ahmadu Ali boarded a helicopter landed at Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, and in full capacity attendance of thousands of  PDP members announced that in obedience to Supreme Court decision they have withdrawn Engineer Charles Uwgu as PDP candidate and they have also expelled Senator Ifeanyi Araraume from the Peoples Democratic Party. In consequence they announced that PDP Imo State had no candidate  for the Governorship Election slated for April 14, 2007. The governorship election took place but Engr. Charles Ugwu’s picture appeared on the ballot paper. This could easily be explained as the ballot papers had been printed given that from April 10, 2007 to April 14, 2007 was only four days.
However, INEC had promised to bring ballot papers with only party symbols and no picture of party candidates. This was not to be on April 14, 2007 at the Imo State Governorship Election. The net result was that INEC cancelled the result of the Imo State Governorship Election held on April 14, 2007 and re-scheduled it for April 28, 2007. What happened on April 28, 2007 in Imo State is a matter for another discussion. However, what is clear is that the whole machinery of Federal Government, State Government, INEC was brought against Senator Ifeanyi Araraume. It is a big surprise that after everything, they placed Senator Ifeanyi Araraume second in the Governorship result declared.
In the indomitable Spirit of an enlightened man, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume went back to court to challenge his expulsion from the party on the grounds that he took the party to court. In a Writ of Summons filed on his behalf by C.U. Ekomaru  Esq. the reliefs sought in the Suit No. HME/26/2007. SENATOR IFEANYI ARARAUME  v PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY & 4 ORS, were as follows:
‘(a)    A declaration that the Plaintiff did not violate Article 21 1 (L) of the Constitution of the peoples Democratic Party 2001 (as amended) in that the Plaintiff did not institute a court action against the Peoples Democratic Party in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/9/2007 at the Federal High Court Abuja (any other Law suit whatsoever against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
(b) A declaration that in the said Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/9/2007 the Peoples Democratic Party and Engr. Charles Ugwu were joined by leave of Court upon an application made by Engr. Charles Ugwu and Independent National Electoral Commission respectively.
(c) A declaration that it is unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional to expel the Plaintiff from the Peoples Democratic Party without regard to the rules of natural justice as provided in Article 21.3, Article 21.5,   Article 21.6. Article 21.13. and 21.14 of the Constitution of Peoples Democratic Party 2001 (as  amended) and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
(d) A declaration that the Plaintiff did not commit any of the offences listed in Article 21.1 of the Constitution of Peoples Democratic Party as to warrant the Plaintiffs expulsion from the party as provided under Article 21. 7(g) of the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party 2001 (as amended)
(e) An order of court nullifying the expulsion of the plaintiff from the Peoples Democratic Party in that the purported expulsion is unconstitutional, illegal and therefore null and void.
(f) An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants, their agents servant and privies from implementing the illegal order of expulsion on the Plaintiff.’
At the conclusion of the case, Hon. Justice C.A. Ononeze-Madu (Mrs.) sitting at High Court of Imo State holden at Mbano on May 31, 2007 in a 26-page judgment nullified the expulsion of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume from PDP by declaring the action of the Peoples Democratic Party unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional.
On page 24 of the Judgment of Ononeze-Madu J. My Lord had this to say and I quote her-
“Upon these Supreme Court authorities cited, I hereby declare the decision of   Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) expelling the Plaintiff on 10th April, 2007 null and void.
The decision of the Supreme Court is binding on all persons and authorities within the Federal Republic of Nigeria and as a court of subordinate jurisdiction I am enjoined and duty bound to enforce that judgment to the letter. The decision to expel the Plaintiff by the Defendants at the time and the manner it was done, if allowed to stand, will erode public confidence in the Judiciary as the last hope of the common man. The said expulsion was only intended to ridicule the Apex Court and make its decision and orders unenforceable. In fact, Democracy cannot survive where the rule of law and the decision of court are violated. No individual or organization is above the law. The act of the 1st -3rd Defendants run contrary to the rules of natural justice. It also offends the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as Exhibit A. It is unconstitutional to condemn a man without being heard.
In line with these plethora of authorities, can the expulsion of the Plaintiff be allowed to stand? The answer is NO because the constitution of Nigeria is Supreme and any act or law which is inconsistent with provisions of the constitution is void.
Both the constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) 2001                       (as amended) and the 1999 constitution of Nigeria all forbid the act of the Defendants and therefore, I hold that the said expulsion is a nullity and is hereby set aside.
I hasten to add that the purported expulsion and the manner in which it was done is only intended to overreach the decision of the Apex Court i.e. The Supreme Court delivered on 5th April 2007. An organization which made provision for the rules of natural justice in its constitution as in the instant case should not be allowed to violate it or approbate and reprobate as to do so will bring anarchy in the cherished system.
Furthermore the defendants cannot be allowed to get from the back door what they did not get through the front door. The act of the defendants constitute an affront to the rule of law. Those who have the privilege of determining the fate of their fellow men should do so in accordance with the rule of law.
In the final analysis, it is my view and I hold very strongly that the action of the defendants runs contrary to the principles of our ground norm. I therefore hold that the Plaintiff has succeeded in proving his case against  the defendants and is entitled to judgment which I now proceed to grant. I hereby declare as follows:
1) That the plaintiff did not violate article 21.1 (L) of the Constitution if the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 2001 (as amended) in that the Plaintiff did not institute a Court action against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS /9/2007 at the Federal high Court Abuja or any other law suit whatsoever against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
2) The court further declares that in the said Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/9/2007 the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and engr. Charlse Ugwu were joined by leave of Court upon an application made by Engr. Charlse Ugwu and Independent National Electoral Commission, respectively.
3) It is the further declaration of this court that it is unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional to expel the Plaintiff from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) without regard to the rules of natural justice as provided in Article 21.3, 21.5, 21.6, 21.13 and 21.14  of the constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 2001 (as amended) and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
4) The court further declare that the Plaintiff did not commit any of the offences listed in Article 21.1 of the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as to warrant the Plaintiff’s expulsion from the party as provided under Article 21.7 of the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 2001 (as amended).
5) The court orders that the expulsion of the Plaintiff from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is unconstitutional, illegal and therefore null and void.
6) It is the further order of this court that perpetual injunction is granted restraining the defendants, their agents servants and privies from implementing the illegal order of expulsion on the Plaintiff.’
In Governor Olagunsoye Oyinola’s case, the Court of Appeal has held that he is the duly elected National Secretary of  PDP. The civilised thing to do is for the PDP to appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court. Once the PDP lawyers file an appeal and ensure that the records of Appeal are entered into the Supreme Court, no further action will be taken on the matter at the Court of Appeal.
I do not know if PDP has taken the lawful steps to appeal but what is in the newspaper and on the news is that PDP has taken the unlawful step of suspending Oyinola from PDP. That action in my humble view was absolutely unnecessary. In Ararume’s case, Tobi JSC stated in open court that had Ararume’s lawyers brought a motion for the committal of the National Chairman of PDP, Senator Ahmadu Ali, the Supreme Court would have formally granted it.
In Oyinola’s case, the PDP is on a collision course with the administration of justice. There is no way Oyinola can be National Secretary if there is a pending appeal at the Supreme Court. The PDP ought to know that but in the impunity and lawlessness of politicians, the PDP chose to ride roughshod over the rule of law and did the unlawful by suspending Oyinola. It is this type of behavior that led to the Governorship of Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State. The Supreme Court decision in Amaechi’s case in 2007 was because of the impunity and impertinence in Ararume’s case by politicians. No one knows but the actions in Oyinlola’s case could have been avoided.
Chief Ekomaru SAN writes from Owerri

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