21st May, 2012
Moves by forces within the Enugu State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to sack the state governor, Sullivan Chime, collapsed Monday morning as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja declined jurisdiction to interfere in the matter.
The suit was instituted by one of the governorship aspirants in the party’s primary election held last January, Chief Alexander Chukwuemeka Obiechina.
He challenged the validity of the party’s primary election through which Governor Chime emerged as the party’s flag bearer in the last governorship election which the governor went on to win.
The Independent National Election Commission, INEC, during the trial had agreed with Chief Obiechina to the effect that the governorship primary of PDP in Enugu state which produced the governor as the party’s flag bearer did not comply with the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2011.
Specifically, INEC faulted the January 11 and 12, 2011 governorship primary of the party in the state where Sullivan Chime was nominated as the flag-bearer of the PDP for the April 16, 2011 governorship election.
INEC, in its written address filed before the court, said: “With respect to the primary election said to be conducted on January 11 and 12, 2011, it can be said that what was passed as the ‘Notice’ to the Resident Electoral Commissioner at Enugu, which most certainly is not the same as INEC who, by the clear terms of section 85(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 must be the Commission itself. This apart, the letter is dated January 10, 2011 and apparently was received on January 11, 2011, the very next day. It gave notice of primaries scheduled for the same day. Certainly no one should be left in doubt that the envisaged notice of 21 days was not complied with in obvious violation of section 85(1).”
INEC also posited that it stands to reason that a notice of primary election dated January 10, 2011 for the events to be held on January 11 and 12, 2011 has the potentials of violating the right to equal opportunity to be voted for.
However, the court in its decision held that what transpired at the party’s primary election can best be considered as an intra party affair which the court has no power to interfere with.
The court further held that it lacks the requisite jurisdiction to wade into the matter and subsequently upheld the preliminary objection filed by Governor Chime and the party, challenging the competency of the suit.
According to Justice Adamu Bello, “The Supreme Court has made it clear that the court has no power to interfere in such matters. I hold that this court has no jurisdiction to interfere and resolve the issues raised in the case. I hold also that the preliminary objections filed by the 2nd and 3rd defendants (PDP and Governor Sullivan Chime) have merit.”
He subsequently dismissed the suit but awarded no cost.