The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to sanction Justice E. A Obile of the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court for allegedly assuming wrong jurisdiction on a case which sought to bar the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, from participating in Thursday’s Primary election of the party.
The party also asked that the Chief judge of the Federal High Court should be advised to reassign the suit to a judge of the Federal High Court sitting at the Abuja Division of the Court.
A suit instituted by one of the governorship aspirants of the PDP, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, had asked the court to bar Obaseki from participating in the forthcoming PDP primary election of the PDP for Edo State.
A major reason stated by Mr Ogbeide-Ihama was that Mr Obaseki recently joined the party and only those who purchased the forms during the stipulated window should be allowed to participate in the primary election.
Mr Ogbeide-Ihama also prayed that the primaries be put on hold pending when the court would hear the motion on notice.
The judge, E. A Obile, however, did not grant that prayer. The judge asked that the motion seeking to bar Mr Obaseki be served on the defendants including Mr Obaseki via newspaper publication.
But in a petition sent to the CJN on Tuesday, the PDP specifically requested that “immediate disciplinary action be commenced against Hon. Justice E.A. Obile of the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court for invidiously assuming jurisdiction and taking sides in the political conflict in Edo State with a view to disrupting the political process”
The petition, which was signed by Dakzel Longii Shamnas, an official of the legal department of the PDP, alleged that Justice Obile “did not approach the matter with circumspection, thereby playing into the hands of politicians.”
According to the petition, Obile ought to have declined jurisdiction on the matter because “the headquarters of the PDP is in Abuja. The screening of candidates for the gubernatorial election which the plaintiff is complaining of in the suit took place in Abuja. The headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is in Abuja.
“On the other hand, the primary election is to take place in Benin City; and the 8th Defendant (Governor Godwin 0baseku) sought to be restrained from contesting the primary election is also based in Benin City. Thus there is no nexus between the facts of this matter and Port Harcourt. These facts ought to have been taken into consideration by Hon. Justice E.A. Obile in Iine with the dictates of the extant practice and procedure of the Federal High Court in volatile pre-election matters such as the instant case”
It continued: “Hon. Justice E. A. Obile while going through originating processes before assuming jurisdiction, should have recognized that the Port Harcourt Division of Federal High Court was chosen to make it impossible for the Defendants to appear before the court and to have tall hearing m the matter. This is reinforced by the applications for abridgment of time and substituted service as well as the time-bound nature of the primary election”
The party further stated that “the intention to deny the defendants fair hearing is also borne out of the fact that the Plaintiff applied for and was granted substituted service of the processes of the court as well as abridgment of time. The orders were made on the 22“ day of June 2020, the primary election is coming up on the 25“‘ day of June 2020 and the 30days for the Defendants to respond to suit was abridged to two days, thus the matter is coming up on the 24‘” day of June 2020 while the primary election is holding on the 25″ day of June 2020 leaving only one day for parties to take further legal steps. The orders were made by a Judge of the Federal Hugh Court who should be cognizant of its implications.”
According to the PDP, the interim orders granted have the effect of disposing of this suit as the entire suit would be overtaken by events and become academic after the 25’“ day of June 2020.
“The Defendants believe that the above actions, especially the sweeping ex parte orders, are not mere errors of judgment, but coldly premeditated moves aimed at denying the Defendants fair hearing and pandering to the interest of politicians with all the devastating consequences for the polity.” the party stressed.