While INEC said it would not withdraw the recognition already given the National Working Committee of the Tukur-led PDP, the Lagos High Court on Thursday said it lacked the jurisdiction to entertain a suit in which the New PDP sought an order stopping Tukur from parading himself as the authentic chairman of the ruling party.
The commission was responding to two separate letters dated September 1 and 23, 2013 by the Alhaji Baraje-led New PDP asking that it should be recognised as the real PDP.
The Baraje faction has seven PDP governors and a former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as its arrowheads. The governors, who are generally referred to in the media as ‘rebel or aggrieved governors’ are Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto); Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano); Muritala Nyako (Adamawa); Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara); and Sule Lamido (Jigawa).
INEC,in a letter addressed to the National Secretary of the New PDP, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, which was obtained exclusively by The PUNCH on Monday, argued that Tukur and other NWC members of the PDP were duly elected during two conventions monitored by its officials.
The letter which was signed by INEC Acting Secretary, U.S.Usman and dated October 2, has reference number INEC/LEG/PDP/19/III/245.
It reads, “Re: Notification of changes in the leadership of the PDP and request for formal recognition.
“The commission acknowledges the receipt of your letters dated September 1 and 23, 2013 respectively wherein you requested the commission’s recognition of the Baraje-led faction and the newly elected NWC.
“You will recall that the commission monitored the national convention and special national convention of the PDP held on March 24, 2012 and August 31, 2013 respectively, at the Eagle Square, Abuja after notices to the commission.
“An NWC was elected at the two conventions with Alhaji Tukur as the national chairman. The commission will not withdraw recognition from the leadership of the PDP elected at elections duly monitored by the commission. Please be guided.”
In Lagos, a high court presided over by Justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie, said it had no power to assume jurisdiction over a matter which originated outside its territory.
Baraje, Oyinlola, and the National Deputy Chairman of the New PDP, Dr. Sam Jaja, had asked the court to restrain Tukur and other NWC members from further parading themselves as the officials of the PDP.
They said in the suit filed on September 1, 2013 that they were the authentic members of the National Executive Committee of the PDP elected on August 30, 2013 at a parallel congress.
PDP itself was joined as the fourth claimant in the suit, while Tukur and others were the respondents.
Ruling on the preliminary objection by the respondents, Justice Adefope-Okojie noted that the applicants had averred in their affidavits that the course of action and the dispute leading to the action, were the special conventions of the PDP in Abuja.
She had added that the respondents confirmed that the PDP had its registered office in Abuja and that none of the defendants was resident in Lagos State.
According to her, the doctrine of enforcement of judgment is not relevant to the suit before it.
Adefope-Okojie therefore dismissed the claimants’ argument that the court had jurisdiction over the matter .
But the judge said the doctrine of judgment enforcement was not relevant at the present stage as the court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter in the first place.
She said, “I hold that with the defendants not resident in Lagos and the subject matter originating in Abuja, the High Court of Lagos State has no power to assume jurisdiction over this suit.
“I accordingly make an order striking out the suit.”
Counsel for the respondents, Mr. Joe Kyari-Gadzama (SAN), and Mr. Emeka Etiaba, had in their preliminary notice of objection, asked the court to strike out the suit for lack of jurisdiction.
The lawyers argued that the writs of summons did not comply with the mandatory requirements of Section 97 of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act because they were not endorsed.
But the claimants’ counsel, Mr. Robert Emukpaeruo, insisted that the court had jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
President Goodluck Jonathan, in his capacity as the leader of the PDP, had held a series of meetings with the seven aggrieved governors with the aim of finding a lasting solution to the party’s crisis.
The Baraje-led faction however said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Chukwuemeka Eze, that there was no cause for alarm over the court ruling.
It said the ruling had nothing to do with the merit of the case but the place of its filing.
The statement added, “As advised by Her Lordship, we shall hasten to re-file the suit, this time in Abuja, as we are convinced about the merit of our case.
“Our determination to sack the usurper, Tukur, and rescue our great party from his misrule has never been stronger.”
The faction therefore urged its supporters and members not to despair or exercise fear but should continue to support its leadership.