A stalwart of the PDP in the State, Mr. Conrad Utaan had instituted the suit against the embattled National Chairman following his suspension by the Igyorov Ward Executive Committee of the party after they had passing a vote-of-no confidence on him.
When the matter came up for hearing weekend, counsel to Dr. Ayu, Yakubu Maikasuwa, a Senior Advocate, raised preliminary objections, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit on the grounds that it was an internal affair of a political party.
He also submitted that the plaintiff failed to utilize “the internal dispute resolution mechanism of the party to resolve the matter before approaching the court.”
He also contended that “no wrong was done to the plaintiff, and there is no benefit or utilitarian value to be derived by the plaintiff from the suit.”
Response to the objection, counsel to Mr. Utaan, Mr. Emmanual Ukala, also a Senior Advocate, insisted that the matter was not an internal affair of a political party, saying that there was a judicial precedence which had resolved a similar issue.
He cited the judgement of a Rivers State High Court in the case between five members of the PDP vs Uche Secondus, and the position of the Court of Appeal in Oshiomhole vs Salihu in 2021 as well as the Supreme Court decision in Gana vs SDP in 2019.
Mr. Ukala argued that “when it comes to interpretation of the constitution of a political party, the court is entitled to exercise its jurisdiction.”
On the position of Dr. Ayu’s counsel that the dispute resolution mechanism of the PDP was not utilized by the plaintiff, Mr. Ukala submitted that “the complaint is against Dr. Ayu, and as at the time the suit was instituted, he was a sitting National Chairman of the PDP.”
He noted that “Dr.Ayu cannot be a judge in his own matter as doing so will be against the principle of fair hearing as contained in section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
On the argument that the plaintiff lacked the locus to bring the application, Ukala argued that ‘it is the case put forward by a plaintiff that determines his locus standi, and a look at the originating summons shows that the plaintiff has locus standi in the instant suit.”
On the objection by Ayu’s counsel that the suit had no utilitarian value or benefit to the plaintiff, Ukala told the court that that the suit had utilitarian value and benefit to the plaintiff “since the plaintiff is a member of the party, who also had interest in the national chairman when it was zoned to zone.”
He urged the court to dismiss all the preliminary objections to the originating summons.
While adopting the originating summons, the accompanying written address, affidavit in support of the originating summons and exhibit, Mr. Ukala informed the court that Dr. Ayu had not challenged his suspension by his Ward Executive in any court.
After listening to the counsels, and after the parties in suit adopted their processes, Justice Ikpambese adjourned the matter to May 26, 2023, for judgement.