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Benue LG Polls: PDP kicks, as court rules in favour of BSIEC

Written By Idoma Television on Friday, June 2, 2017 | 11:32:00 PM

By Yemi Itodo

A Federal High Court sitting in Makurdi, on Friday, delivered judgement in a suit filed by the Chairman of People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State, Hon. John Ngbede, the 23 Chairmanship candidates and 276 councillorship candidates of the party for the Saturday, 3rd June, 2017 local government election in the state.

The plaintiffs had instituted a case against one Mr. Dan Ale, the Benue State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Commissioner of Police in Benue and the State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice.

BSIEC, the election umpire in the state, had rejected the candidate's list submitted by the state executive, under the leadership of Ngbede; citing that the National Chairman of the party, Ali Modu Sheriff had instructed that the commission should only entertain the list from Mr . Ale, who, according to Sheriff, was the authentic state chairman of the party.

In the originating summon, the plaintiffs sought to know, whether, in accordance with section 223 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended) and articles 25,47 and 49 of PDP constitution, the John Ngbede led state executive, having emerged through the State Congress on 10th May, 2016, did not have right to submit candidate's list to BSIEC, ahead of the poll.

The party also, among other things, urged the court to make an order of declaration, for the Nigerian Police to seal off the "illegal" office currently being operated by Mr. Ale in Makurdi, to polarise the party.

It also cited the the judgement of an Appeal Court in Port Harcourt on 17th February, 2017, which affirmed the chairmanship of Sheriff, with a clause that, "the status quo ante should be maintained".

Counsel to the Plaintiffs, Kehinde A.T. (SAN), argued that, going by the Appeal Court judgement, John Ngbede led state executive was the status quo of the party, having emerged through the hierarchy of state Congress, before the botched National Convention of Port Harcourt.

On their parts, the defending counsels submitted that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit, adding that section 251 of the 1999 constitution  (as amended) stipulated those matters that a federal high court could entertain.

Ruling on the issue of jurisdiction, the presiding Judge, Oneke JHC said, "the Federal High Court derives its jurisdiction from section 251(1) of 1999 constitution. I found merit in the arguments of 1st and 2nd defendants and hereby declare that, this court lacks jurisdiction to hear this matter".

The Judge, however, delved into the substantive matters, by deciding the issues formulated in the originating summon.

On the argument, whether Dan Ale's list could be taken by BSIEC as valid, against the list submitted by John Ngbede's, which emerged through primaries that was monitored by BSIEC, INEC and security agencies; the judge ruled that, article 50 (1) of the PDP constitution gives the National Secretariat of a party the right to rectify list of party candidates "for elections into public offices, at all levels".

The Judge also cited Okafor vs Onuora  (supra), Khaki vs PDP, as decided at the Supreme Court, that the issue of nomination of candidates was purely an internal affairs of the party and as such, BSIEC was right to have fielded the list from Dan Ale, having recieved letter from the National Secretary of the party.

He was, however, silent over the argument by the Plaintiffs counsel that, the Appeal Court judgement of Port Harcourt gave legitimacy to John Ngbede led executive, having emerged before the May 21st 2016 botched national convention.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party in Benue State, has reacted to the development.

Addressing party supporters at the state secretariat of the party in Makurdi, shortly after the judgement, the state chairman, Hon. John Ngbede, described the judgement as unfortunate and unacceptable.

He urged PDP members across the state to be law abiding and go about their normal businesses, saying the legal team of the party were putting heads together for the next action in the legal tussle. 

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