An appeal filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to challenge the judgment of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt barring the party from presenting candidates in Rivers State for the general elections has been struck out by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. But there are three other pending appeals on the controversial primaries of the party in Rivers State.
Ruling on Tuesday, the Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour-led bench of the apex court struck out one of the appeals by the APC after upholding the preliminary objection filed against it by a group of 22 members of the party loyal to Senator Magnus Abe in the state. The 22 party members led by Ibrahim Umar, are opposed to the emergence of Tony Cole as the governorship candidate of the party in the state.
Delivering the lead ruling of the five-man bench of the apex court on the APC’s appeal on Tuesday, Justice Amir Sanusi said the preliminary objection by the respondents was meritorious. Justice Sanusi said that the apex court’s reasons for striking out the suit would be given at a date to be communicated to parties to the suit. Meanwhile, the five-man bench is currently hearing three appeals which were consolidated earlier on Tuesday.
The Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to expunge the names of candidates representing the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State in the February and March 2019 general elections. The presiding judge, Justice James Omotosho, gave this order on Monday while ruling on a suit brought before the court, asking it not to recognise any candidate from the state APC.
Delivering his judgment, Omotosho made reference to an earlier ruling by the Rivers State High Court, which nullified the ward, local government and state congresses held by the state APC. He ruled: “All nominations in the APC, from governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and others are hereby nullified and void and set aside. Only political parties that conducted valid primaries are eligible to produce candidates for the general elections. The All Progressives Congress is not entitled to nominate candidates from governorship to Senate, House of Representatives and other positions. The plaintiffs did not participate in valid primaries; they are not eligible to contest because they did not follow due process.”
The judge, who also ruled on whether a political party could interfere in the affairs of another political party, stated that the amended Electoral Act, in its expanded locus, had paved the way for a political party to challenge the dealings of another party. He pointed out that this could be necessary if a political party felt there was an error in the action or actions of another party. But the Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation said it would challenge Monday’s ruling that barred INEC from recognising any APC candidate in Rivers State ahead of the general elections.
The campaign organisation said there were sufficient grounds on which to appeal the decision of the Federal High Court. A statement signed by the spokesman for the Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation, Ogbonna Nwuke, indicated that it was obvious the battle was between the APC and the PDP in the state. “Our position, after consultations with our lawyers, is that we shall challenge the order in an appellate court. Although we were not favoured by the decision, our faith in the country’s judicial system remains unshaken. We believe we have sufficient grounds on which to appeal the decisions of the Federal High Court as well as the ruling of the Rivers State High Court,” the statement read.