A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama, has dismissed the objection raised by the suspended chairmen of the Labour Party (LP), Julius Abure and three other national officials of the party against a suit seeking their sack over alleged forgery and corrupt practices.
Justice Hamza Muazu, in a ruling on Friday held that his court has jurisdiction to hear and determine suit filed by some aggrieved members of the party.
The ruling was on the preliminary objection filed by Abure, and the suspended National Secretary, Alhaji Farouk Ibrahim. Justice Muazu faulted the argument by Abure and Ibrahim that the subject matter of the suit was within the realm of the internal affairs of the party on which no court could adjudicate. The judge held that it was no longer the law that the court could not adjudicate on issues relating to party’s internal affairs.
The judge noted that had the party been at peace with itself, there would not have been any need for the court to interfere in its affairs. “When there is no crack on the wall, there will not be need for an outsider to come mend it,” he said. Justice Muazu held that plaintiffs’ case was justiciable contrary to the argument by lawyer to Abure and Ibrahim, Alex Ejesieme (SAN), adding that the plaintiffs were right to have instituted the case via an originating summons.
Following the April 5 ex-parte injunction made by Justice Muazu, stopping Abure, the National Secretary of the party, Alhaji Umar Farouk and two other national officials, Ejesieme had on April 20 argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter. The senior advocate had submitted that the matter before the court bordered on the internal affairs of the Labour Party, adding that criminal allegations made by the plaintiffs in the case, could not be ventilated in an origination summon.
He added that the eight plaintiffs that brought the case before the court were not members of the National Executive Council of the party and as such lacked the locus standi to institute the case. “Our contention is very clear that those criminal allegations cannot be ventilated in an origination summon. The issue of locus standi is there. When you referred to LP’s constitution, the claimants are not members of NEC or the party. They have a duty to present their membership cards to the court which they didn’t,” the counsel argued.
While objecting to the preliminary objection raised by the counsel for Abure and Farouk, counsel for the plaintiffs, George Ibrahim, urged the court to dismiss same. According to him, the first to fourth defendants had yet to obey the April 5 order of the court as they were still parading themselves as national officers of the LP. With the ruling of the court on having jurisdiction to hear the case, its order of April 5 subsists. The judge adjourned until May 19 to hear the substantive case.
The eight plaintiffs in the case are Martins Esikpali John; Lucky Shaibu; Isah Zekeri; Omogbai Frank; Abokhaiu Aliu; Ayohkaire Lateef; John Elomah and Dr Ayobami Arabambi,. They had in an ex-parte motion, marked M/7082/2023, sought the removal of Abure and the three other national officers of the party. They informed the court, through their counsel, Ogwu Onoja (SAN), that Abure and the three other national officials allegedly forged several documents of the FCT High Court, including receipts, seal and affidavits, to carry out unlawful substitutions in the last general election.
Onoja argued that following their indictment by police investigation, the four people are to be arraigned in court, adding that warrants for their arrest have already been obtained. The judge was of the view that, being members of the LP, the plaintiffs have the locus standi to file the suit before the court.
Reacting to the court’s ruling in interview with journalists, the acting National Chairman of Labour Party, Alhaji Bashir Apapa, said that justice had taken its natural course, saying that the judge acted in line with true justice.
According to him, “with this ruling, there is no doubt that I am in charge. As of today, I am the acting National Chairman of Labour Party. Apapa subsequently directed all the party’s lawyers handling its election petition before the presidential election petition court, to within 48 hours come and brief him on the processes so far. “I want to invite all the lawyers representing Labor party to come and give me updates within the next 48hrs because I am fully in-charge now,” Apapa said.
Meanwhile, in his reaction to the ruling, Abure expressed optimism of getting justice in the Court of Appeal. “I am ready to go for an appeal. We will be submitting our notice of appeal to the court and we will move all the matter from that court and take it to the court of Appeal. I believe that I will get justice in the Court of Appeal. I believe that Labour Party will get justice in the court of Appeal,’ Abure said.