*Photo L-R: Apapa, Obi*
Justice Hamza Muazu of an Abuja High Court on Friday strengthened the hands of Bashir Apapa as the acting chairman of the troubled Labour Party.
The ruling which stands till 19 May puts in jeopardy, the election petition of the party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
Apapa as acting chairman had written the Presidential Election Petition Court that the party is withdrawing its case.
On Friday, after the court ruling on whether it has jurisdiction in the case filed by some members of the Labour Party (LP), Apapa declared he is now in charge.
He directed all the party’s lawyers handling its election petition before the presidential election petition court, to within 48 hours brief him on the processes so far
He said that justice had taken its natural course, saying that the judge acted in line with true justice.
According to him, “with this ruling, there is no doubt that I am in charge. As of today, I am the acting National Chairman of Labour Party”.
Justice Muazu gave his ruling in the suit seeking the removal of the chairman of the party, Julius Abure, the National Organising Secretary, Mr Clement Ojukwu and National Treasurer and Oluchi Opara,
Justice Muazu held that it was no longer the law that the court cannot adjudicate in poljtical parties’ matter.
The judge further held that if the party had been at peace with itself, there would not be any need for the court to interfere in its affairs.
“When there is no crack on the wall, there will not be need for an outsider to come mend it,” he said.
Muazu further held that the plaintiffs’ case is justiciable contrary to the submission of the counsel for Abure and Farouk, Alex Ejesieme SAN,
He added that the plaintiffs were equally right to have instituted the case through originating summons.
On the issue of locus standi of the plaintiffs to bring the matter before the court, the judge held that being members of the LP, they have the locus standi to institute the case.
Following the April 5 ex-parte injunction made by Justice Muazu, stopping Abure, the National Secretary of the party, Alhaji Umar Farouk and two other national officials, Ejesieme had on April 20 argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
The senior advocate had submitted that the matter before the court bordered on the internal affairs of the Labour Party, adding that criminal allegations made by the plaintiffs in the case, could not be ventilated in an origination summon.
He added that the eight plaintiffs that brought the case before the court were not members of the National Executive Council of the party and as such lacked the locus standi to institute the case.
“Our contention is very clear that those criminal allegations cannot be ventilated in an origination summon.
“The issue of locus standi is there. When you referred to LP’s constitution, the claimants are not members of NEC or the party.
“They have a duty to present their membership cards to the court which they didn’t,” the counsel argued.
While objecting to the preliminary objection raised by the counsel for Abure and Farouk, counsel for the plaintiffs, Mr George Ibrahim, urged the court to dismiss same.
According to him, the first to fourth defendants had yet to obey the April 5 order of the court as they were still parading themselves as national officers of the LP.
With the ruling of the court on having jurisdiction to hear the case, its order of April 5 subsists.
The judge adjourned until May 19 to hear the substantive case.
The eight plaintiffs in the case are Martins Esikpali John; Lucky Shaibu; Isah Zekeri; Omogbai Frank; Abokhaiu Aliu; Ayohkaire Lateef; John Elomah and Dr Ayobami Arabambi,.
They had in an ex-parte motion, marked M/7082/2023, sought the removal of Abure and the three other national officers of the party.
They informed the court, through their counsel, Ogwu Onoja SAN, that Abure and the three other national officials allegedly forged several documents of the FCT High Court, including receipts, seal and affidavits, to carry out unlawful substitutions in the last general election.
Onoja argued that following their indictment by police investigation, the four people are to be arraigned in court, adding that warrants for their arrest have already been obtained.