By Amos Aar.
THE Federal High Court Abuja presided over by Honourable Justice Kolowale Omotosho on Monday dismissed cases filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State against the All progressives Congress (APC) in the state, challenging the conduct of the party’s 2022 gubernatorial and senatorial primaries that produced Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia, Barr Emmanuel Udende, Titus Zam and Daniel Onjeh as Guber candidate and senatorial candidates for zones A, B and C respectively.
The PDP approached the court and alleged the APC had violated constitutional provisions and some sections of the Electoral Act in their conduct of direct primaries for governorship and senatorial election of candidates for 2023 general elections.
The PDP and its governorship candidate, Titus Uba, as well as its three senatorial candidates in Benue State therefore sought a court injunction restraining INEC from accepting the name of Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia and the three senatorial candidates of the APC.
Legal Adviser to the Benue State chapter of the APC, Barr Fidelis Bemsen Mnyim, who briefed newsmen in Abuja shortly after the judgement, said the court, having considered section 77(2&3) of the Electoral Act (2022), which relates to submission of membership register to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and 21 days notice, ruled that APC had submitted its membership register 30 days before the day of primaries.
He added that the court described as a worthless document the 21 days notice submitted by the PDP claiming that the APC did not comply with the guideline in their notice to INEC before the primaries.
“The Lord [Judge] went ahead to agree with APC that the APC had submitted register of members even 30 days before the day of primaries complained of. The plaintiffs had a handwritten memo that they circulated before the court to show that not all the registered members of the APC in Benue State were submitted. That particularly, Katsina-Ala and Vandeikya register of members were not submitted. Their target was to say that since the registers of Katsina-Ala and Vandeikya were not submitted, Fr. Alia had no business being at the primaries.
“But the court looked at the document and in summary, the court held that the document is worthless, belongs to nobody, no name was written. The document is purported to be official document from INEC but there was nothing to show on the document that the document emanates from INEC.”
Barrister Mnyim added: “In appreciating section 82(1) that relates to the length of notice, the court agreed first and foremost that the 21 days notice is sacrosanct. [The court] however went ahead to say that APC as a political party gave INEC more than 21 days’ notice before the day of primaries and the court went ahead to say that the notices relied upon by PDP, the notice of the 19th of May and 25th of May, 2022, that relied on were only follow-up notices. The Court appreciated the fact that the notice submitted by the APC on the 6th of April, 2022 was more than sufficient to the day of holding the primaries.”
The PDP cases decided on by the Federal High Court against APC include, PDP against Rev. Fr Hyacinth Iormem Alia, the APC guber candidate, Gov. Samuel Ortom who is vying for Benue Zone B senate against Hon. Titus Zam, the APC senatorial candidate of the zone, and Sen. Abba Moro against Daniel Onjeh, APC senatorial candidate for Benue South, and Sen. Gabriel Suswam against Barr Emmanuel Udende, the APC senatorial candidate for Benue North East.
At the end of the judgement, counsel to Fr. Alia, S. I. Ameh (SAN), asked for cost of N2 million while counsel to APC, Fidelis Mnyim, asked for N2 million cost for their respective clients.
Ruling on the requests, Justice Omotosho granted N1 million naira in favour of Fr Alia, and five hundred thousand naira (N500,000) in favour of all other parties involved in the governorship suit and five hundred thousand (N500,000) naira in favour of each of the defendants in the senatorial suit.