A High Court in Port Harcourt has nullified the nomination of Mr. Tonye Dele-Cole as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, noting that his emergence was illegal and unconstitutional.
Delivering judgement in a suit filed by Ibrahim Imah and 22 others against the APC, the presiding judge, Justice Chiwendu Nwogu declared that Dele-Cole’s nomination was a function of illegality and unconstitutional acts.
The court also nullified the Rivers State APC senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly primaries conducted on the premise of the illegal ward congresses.
Nworgu noted that the ward congresses of Rivers APC were illegal because they were not conducted in line with the APC Guidelines and Constitution, just as he declared that all those who purchased nomination forms for the ward congresses were entitled to contest the ward congresses of May 19, 2018, but were unjustly excluded by the party.
The court further nullified all the elections of Rivers APC Ward Executives, Local Government Executives and State Executive Committee that arose from the illegal ward congresses.
Justice Nwogu set aside the ward congresses of Rivers APC on May 19, 2018, Local Government Congresses of May 19, 2018 and State Congress of the party of May 21, 2018.
He said: “The rule by might must be checked by the rule of law. We must restore the hope of the common man in the justice system.”
The Judge, who said he based his judgement on the Amaechi versus INEC Matter of 2007, noted that having studied the submissions in the matter, hence decided that justice was done in the case.
He stated that the High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter as an appeal filed by the respondents at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt to stop proceedings on the suit was rejected by the appellate court on September 21, 2018.
On the suit filed in an Abuja High Court by a faction of the APC, Nwogu declared that the court is of coordinate jurisdiction with the High Court in Port Harcourt and cannot sit in appeal over it, adding that the suit filed by Ibrahim Imah, preceded that of the Abuja High Court by a faction of the Rivers State APC.
Earlier before the delivery of the judgement, a counsel to the APC, Prince OSM Azunda, had moved a motion seeking to stop the delivery of the judgement, but Nwogu dismissed his application which he described as a ploy to arrest the judgement.
However, the party said it was not surprised by the court’s verdict.
The Rivers State Publicity Secretary of APC, Chris Finebone, urged party supporters “not to lose sleep as appeal has been entered and stay of execution on the matter has been entered.”
Reacting to the judgement, Abe said that members that were shut out of the party structure because they decided to stand for truth will fight injustice to the very end.
Speaking at a protest rally in Port Harcourt, Abe noted that those who sacrificed for the party should be respected and not taken for a ride having stood for the party from the very beginning.
Abe said that the court has done the right thing by nullifying the primary that produced Dele-Cole, noting that it was wrong for the party to collect money from members and ask them not to run.
He said: “When people ran to the court in protest, they attacked the court. But the court has said the truth that you cannot collect money from people and ask them not to run.
“People cannot sit in Lagos and choose a governor for Rivers people… We will show them that the people cannot be taken for granted. We will fight this, no matter how long it takes.