ABUJA- The two factions of the Labour Party (LP) led by Julius Abure and Lamidi Apapa disagreed at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court over plans to withdraw a suit filed against Athan Achonu, the party’s candidate in the last governorship election in Imo.
The Apapa-led faction of the party had filed the case to stop Mr Achonu as the party’s standard-bearer for the November 11, 2023, governorship poll in Imo before Justice Inyang Ekwo.
The plaintiffs in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1357/2023 include LP, Mr Apapa (acting national chairman), Lawal Saleh (acting national secretary), and Comrade Abayomi Arabambi (national publicity secretary).
Others are Comrade Anslem Eragbe (national youth leader), Akingbade Oyelekan (national legal adviser) and Joseph Ikechukwu Ukaegbu (gubernatorial candidate, Imo State) as first to seventh plaintiffs, respectively.
In their motion ex-parte, the plaintiffs sued INEC as the sole defendant.
They had sought an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from “recognising any other person or persons laying claim to the LP gubernatorial ticket in Imo governorship election slated for November 11, 2023, other than the seventh plaintiff (Mr Ukaegbu) who emerged from the primary conducted by the Apapa-led National Working Committee (NWC) of LP on April 16.”
They also sought an order of mandatory injunction directing or compelling INEC to recognise, upload and publish Mr Ukaegbu’s name as LP governorship candidate in Imo.
However, Mr Ekwo declined to grant the motion, directing them to notify INEC to explain why the court should not grant the application.
In its response, INEC prayed the court to dismiss Mr Apapa’s motion seeking to replace the party’s governorship candidate in Imo.
INEC, in its affidavit to show cause pursuant to the court order, told Mr Ekwo that the plaintiffs’ suit was statute-barred.
When the matter came up on November 23, 2023, Kehinde Edun, the Abure-led national legal adviser, appeared in court and announced an appearance for LP (first plaintiff). He said he was in court to file a discontinuance notice.
Taken aback by Mr Edun’s submission, Anderson Asemota, who had been appearing for all the plaintiffs, including the first plaintiff (LP), said the matter was slated for hearing.
He said he was served with a notice of joinder by Imo governorship candidate, Mr Achonu, through his lawyer, Okwudili Anozie, who had earlier announced an appearance as the party seeking to be joined.
Mr Asemota told the court that Mr Edun was not the party’s national legal adviser.
The judge, who ordered Mr Edun to serve Mr Asemota with the notice of discontinuance, adjourned the matter until today for a hearing.
Upon resumed hearing, Mr Asemota told the court that his clients had filed an affidavit of facts opposing the notice of discontinuance.
Responding, Mr Edun told the court that he was just served with the affidavit of facts earlier in the morning and would need more time to respond.
Mr Ekwo adjourned the matter until March 6 for the adoption of processes in the notice of discontinuance.
Meanwhile, in the application sighted by journalists, Akingbade Oyelekan, who averred that he was LP’s authentic national legal adviser, said the notice of discontinuance was tailored to mislead the court.
“I have clinically scanned through and perused the rubrics of the notice of discontinuance dated and filed November 22, 2023, and state that the same was contrived, concocted and tailored to mislead this honourable court as it did not emanate from the party,” he said.
Mr Oyelekan argued that the party’s leadership did not at any time direct or instruct the lawyers handling the matter or any other lawyer to withdraw or discontinue the suit.
He said they were desirous of prosecuting the matter to its logical conclusion.
Mr Oyelekan said he was duly elected as the national legal adviser of the LP in the party’s national convention on June 10, 2019.
In the exhibit marked “A,” Mr Oyelekan referred to the list of members of the NWC of the party forwarded to INEC, which, he said, was duly received and acknowledged by the commission on June 24, 2019.
He averred that upon expiration of the tenure of the NWC members, the NEC of the party, in session, extended the tenure of the NWC members, including the national legal adviser, for another six months.
The lawyer alleged that Mr Edun, parading himself as national legal adviser, was unknown to the party.
Mr Oyelekan urged the court to strike out the notice of discontinuance in the interest of justice.
Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo was reelected in the November 11, 2023 governorship election.(NAN)