5th November, 2013
NNAMDI Felix / Abuja
Rivers state Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s battle to reclaim the structure of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the state ahead of the 2015 general election took some blows on Tuesday at a Court of Appeal siting in Abuja as some members of the old state executive approached the court with applications seeking to be joined in the matter and claiming that they did not authorize Chief Godspower Ake, the sacked former chairman of the state exco, to file the appeal.
In their respective applications before the court, Evelyn Nkechi Weke, an Ex Officio member of the state executive committee of the state chapter of the party, as well as Barrister Emmanuel Utchay, the Assistant Legal Officer seek to be made parties in the suit.
They want the appeal struck out on the ground that it is incompetent having not been filed with their consent as members of the state exco on whose behalf the sacked former chairman and Governor Amaechi’s main ally, filed the appeal. They both insisted that Chief Ake misrepresented their interest in instituting the appeal without their authorization.
In her application, Evelyn Nkechi Weke contended that Chief Ake ought to have brought the appeal in his personal or private capacity noting that there is no common interest in the subject matter of litigation to warrant his initiating the appeal in a representative capacity.
She avers that other members of the supposed state executive committee of the PDP in Rivers state have no intention or basis to pursue the appeal and wants the court to make an order striking out the appeal for being incompetent.
Alternatively, Weke wants the court to hold that the appeal was filed on behalf of persons whose identities are not known or disclosed or on behalf of members of non juristic entity referred to as “State Executive Committee of PDP in Rivers State” and to strike it out, or to make an order granting leave for her to withdraw the appeal filed on her behalf without her consent.
Attempts by Chief Joseph Daudu, a senior advocate of Nigeria, who represented the sacked former chairman of the PDP Rivers state chapter, Chief Godspower Ake, to persuade the court to ignore the applications of the exco members seeking to join the matter and to hear his application for leave of the court to appeal the FCT High Court’s decision that sacked his client from office, was rebuffed by the court.
The Appeal court held that the applications brought by the exco members were already before the court and that they are fundamental to resolving the matter.
According to Daudu, the applications filed by the exco members were calculated to frustrate the hearing of the appeal which he urged the court to resist.
“This is an appeal from a High Court and nothing has changed in the parties before the court. It does not lie in the mouth of the applicants to say that they did not authorize the appellant to institute this appeal. They should not be allowed to frustrate and truncate this proceedings which I think is what they are here to do,” Daudu told the court.
However, the three man panel of the court observed that the applications have been filed and that they have to do with the appellants.
“They are saying that they have not given anybody authority to file an appeal on their behalf and their application is pending even though it is not in our file yet, but is a very important issue that has to be dealt with by this court,” the court insisted.
Similarly, Chief Godwin Obla, also a senior advocate of Nigeria representing the Chief Obuah Felix Amaechi and Chief Walter Ibibia Opuene, the chairman and secretary of the Rivers state PDP respectively, informed the court of his clients preliminary objection to the appeal as filed by the ousted former chairman, Chief Ake.
Chief Obla stated that 27 persons out of the 28 persons and their positions in the Rivers state PDP executive committee that the appellant purports to represent are not affected by the decision of the lower court which sacked Chief Ake, and that these persons were not deprived of their positions in the party’s executive committee in the state. He noted that these 27 persons not so affected by the lower Court’s decision are not aggrieved by that decision.
The senior advocate further contended that the names of the exco members who the appellant purports to represent are not listed in the notice of appeal which the appellant filed last April. He also informed the court that Chief Ake and his sponsors are no longer members of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP having joined another party which they called “New PDP” and that the PDP which is a party in the appeal is not the “new PDP”
He urged the court to set aside the record of appeal compiled and forwarded to the court in connection with the appeal as well as the brief of argument filed by the appellant and the notice and grounds of appeal file thereto.
Other parties in the matter, including the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, also indicated their opposition to the appeal.
The court thereafter directed parties to file written addresses on the issues raised with a view to expediting the destination of the appeal one way or the other and adjourned further proceedings to 15 January, 2014.
Chief Ake had approached the appellate court asking it, amongst others, to stay the execution of the judgment that removed him from office pending his appeal and is also challenging the jurisdiction of the FCT High Court to have entertained the suit whose subject matter, according to him, should have been determined by a Rivers state High Court.
Ake’s removal from office as chairman of the PDP in the state and the inauguration of Chief Obuah Amechi Felix and Walter Ibibia Opuene, both Wike loyalists, as the chairman and secretary of the state chapter of the party respectively, tipped the balance of political influence ahead of 2015 elections in favour of Wike, whose eyes are firmly set on the state’s government house in 2015.