A verbal spat broke out between two factions of the Labour Party (LP) on Thursday after a Federal High Court session in Abuja.
The court had just convened to hear an application to drop a case filed against Athan Achonu, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for governor of Imo on November 11.
After Kehinde Edun, the Labour Party’s initial plaintiff, told the court he was there to file a discontinuance notice in the lawsuit, Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the hearing until January 11.
Informing the court that the first plaintiff had been joined without authorization, Edun, identifying himself as the National Legal Adviser of LP, stated when the proceedings recommenced.
“I am here to file a notice of discontinuance. We have no case against the defendant (Independent National Electoral Commission).”
Anderson Asemota, who had been defending each plaintiff, including the first plaintiff (LP), was taken aback by Edun’s remarks and stated that a hearing was planned for the case.
Asemota said that Athan Achonu, the Imo governor’s candidate, had sent him a notice of joinder through his attorney, Okwudili Anozie, who had already declared his candidature as a party wanting to join.
The judge informed Asemota, “The national legal adviser said the suit was filed without authorization.”
However, Edun was not the party’s national legal advisor, according to Asemota.
The lawyer said that the national legal counsel had briefly left the room and pointed to a litigant who had raised the issue of recognition to show that the national youth leader was present in the courtroom.
Asemota said that he was not notified about the decision to end the action by the Labour Party (LP), which he was representing in court. He said that he hadn’t gotten the notice Edun was going to send.
He argued that Edun should not have informed him of the plan to submit a notice of discontinuance until after he had applied for a joinder in accordance with procedural rules.
The judge then inquired as to whether Edun had delivered the application to Asemota.
“I’ll serve them right away,” Edun answered.
Judge Ekwo therefore postponed the case to January 11 in order to hear the discontinuance notification.
Asemota spoke for the Labour Party (LP) faction headed by Alhaji Lamidi Apapa, while Edun represented the faction headed by Julius Abure.
After the court adjourned, members of Apapa’s side contested Edun’s move to end their lawsuit, leading to a fight between the two factions. A heated argument resulted from which court employees and members of the King’s Guard intervened.
The plaintiffs in the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1357/2023, consisted of LP; Alhaji Apapa (Acting National Chairman); Alhaji Lawal Saleh (Acting National Secretary); Comrade Abayomi Arabambi (National Publicity Secretary); Comrade Anslem Eragbe (National Youth Leader); Akingbade Oyelekan (National Legal Adviser); and Chief Joseph Ikechukwu Ukaegbu (Gubernatorial candidate, Imo State) as the 1st to 7th plaintiffs, respectively.
They sued INEC as the only defendant in their motion ex-parte, requesting an interim injunction to stop INEC from acknowledging any other candidate seeking the LP governorship ticket in the Imo governorship election on November 11, 2023, with the exception of Ukaegbu, who won the primary run by the Lamidi Apapa-led National Working Committee (NWC) of LP on April 16.
In addition, the plaintiffs asked for a mandatory injunction to prevent INEC from recognising, uploading, or publishing Ukaegbu’s name as the LP candidate for governor of Imo while the motion is being heard and decided.
They also requested an order requiring INEC to upload the names of Apapa, Saleh, and other Apapa-led NWC members as the interim national chairman and national secretary, respectively.
Judge Ekwo, however, refused to grant the request, directing them instead to inform INEC and give it a chance to explain why the application should not be granted.
INEC responded by pleading with the court to reject Apapa’s application to substitute the party’s nominee for Imo governor. In its affidavit, INEC claimed that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was precluded by statute.
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