BY: VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, has stopped the National Working Committee (NWC) of the People “s Democratic Party (PDP) from altering the March 7th and 21st, 2020 Ward and Chapter executives’ lists for the PDP Cross River North Senatorial September 5th, primaries.
A statement made available to newsmen in Calabar yesterday said, the court presided over by Justice I. M. Sani, also annulled the disqualification of Hon Jarigbe Agom, one of the aspirants for the PDP Cross River North senatorial primaries and also ruled that venue for the primary remains in Cross River North Senatorial.
It would be recalled that for over five months now controversy had trailed the Ward and Chapter executives fully endorsed by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP through a letter dated April 26 and signed by its National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd) saying “any other list like the one dated April 27 is fake”.
This position put the party in the state and Abuja in a sharp divide between the governor, Senator Ben Ayade and the state caretaker executives (the home front) on one side and most of the National Assembly members otherwise known as the Abuja group and some stakeholders on the other.
The PDP screening committee had cleared Agom but Appeal panel disqualified him and the Ward and Chapter executives’ lists became controversial and not satisfied. Agom took PDP to court through his counsel, Chief Ifedayo A. Adedipe (SAN) challenging his disqualification and asked that the court should set it aside, to determine the authentic delegates’ list and venue for the primary.
In a phone interview, Chief Adedipe said, “I am very satisfied with the outcome. We went to court essentially to preserve the integrity of the electoral process and compliance with the provisions of the electoral act and the constitution of the PDP. As you may be aware the PDP conducted congress list was produced and PDP, the INEC ratified it but some persons went ahead to produce a different list different from the one in custody of INEC and were also planning to go and conduct the party primary in a place different from the senatorial district as mandated by law”.
“What we did was to go to court saying if you are going to conduct this primary in line with law, that list that was sanctioned by everybody must be the one you use and have to do the primary at the senatorial district. The court listened to all arguments and agreed with our position that you can not concoct another list”..
He went further to State that”the court ruled that the delegates’ list that was ratified by the NWC which is lodged with INEC as a result of the congress result of 7th and 21 March 2020 is the one the party should use and equally the PDP should do the primary at the Cross River North Senatorial district”
On the issue of disqualification of Agom, he said “it has been set aside by the court because no body is allowed to over reach the process in court. We are in court and you say because my client went to court they have disqualified him even when the court had earlier issued an interim order that nobody should take steps to overreach the other one, hence the court set aside the purported disqualification. Let me warn the party, if they ignore the court order, we will take them to all the courts in the land and they may end up not having candidate”.
Counsel to the PDP, its National Legal Adviser, Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem battled to stop the inclusion of the Ward and Chapter executives’ lists and the to sustain the disqualification of Agom but Justice Sani ruled in favour of Agom and held that “the 1st (PDP) and 2nd (INEC) defendants have no right to alter or modify the list of elected officials emanating that was a product of the process that took place on the 7th and 21st of March, 2020).
The party had earlier sent a five man screening committee headed by Olorogun Taleb Tebite and Secretary, Dare Adeleke to the state and all the five aspirants for the senatorial position were cleared to contest the party primaries. .
Other aspirants cleared by the screening committee include the Chairman of Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Steven Odey; former State House of Assembly Member, Mr. Ogana Lukpata; a member of Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Communication, Dr. Martina Odom and a lecturer with the University of Calabar, Mrs. Mary Iji.
Recently, four aggrieved aspirants of the PDP for the party’s primary election for the Northern Senatorial District bye-election had issued a statement over plans to exclude ratified and legitimate inaugurated ward members and chapter executives from participating in the primary scheduled to hold on September 5. The protesting aspirants include Agom, Chief Odom, Dr. Iji and Mr Lukpata