Main opposition party in Edo State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is seeking to an order of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to be joined as defendant in a suit brought by the aggrieved 14 member of the Edo House of Assembly.
Counsel to the PDP, Barbara Omosun, in a suit number FHC/ABJ//CS/1582/2019, told Justice Ahmed Mohammed that as registered political party, it was entitled to field candidates in the seats declared vacant by the Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, Frank Okiye.
The party argued that the assembly was duly proclaimed on June 17, 2019, following the proclamation letter to the effect by Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo.
The PDP, which said that it became aware of the suit recently, said its rights and interest might be adversely affected by the court’s decision.
The embattled 14 House of Assembly lawmakers in Edo had, on Dec. 12, 2019, approached the court, seeking an order of interim injunction restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting by-elections in respect of their seats purportedly declared vacant by the speaker on Dec. 4, 2019, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated Dec 10, 2019.
While the speaker was the 1st defendant, INEC was the 2nd defendant in the suit.
Justice Mohammed had, at the hearing, directed the 1st and 2nd defendants to appear before the court on Dec. 19, 2019 to show cause why the interim injunction being sought by the plaintiffs vide their motion ex-parte should not be granted.
Mohammed also ordered that the enrolled order to show cause, motion ex parte for interim injunction, motion on notice for interlocutory injunction and the originating processes should be served on the respondents.
At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, counsel to the 14 lawmakers, Adewale Adegboyega, told the court that the matter was adjourned for the defendants to show cause why the interim order should not be issued against INEC.
Adegboyega, who said that INEC filed a motion on Jan. 10 to indicate that it was indifferent to his clients’ application, also said that Okiye filed his affidavit to show cause on Feb. 25.
The lawyer added that he got the application of party seeking to be joined in the suit on March 2 and that he would study it in order to take his stand on it.
“Considering the allegations in the affidavit filed by 1st defendant, we filed a further affidavit on March 3 (today).
“Subject to Your Lordship directive, we are ready for the 1st defendant in particular to show cause,” he said.
Ken Mozia, SAN, counsel to the speaker, said he had complied with court order by filing an affidavit showing cause why the interim order should not be made.
“We served the plaintiffs with the affidavit on Feb. 25. However, they served a voluminous further affidavit on me this morning in response to our application,” he said.
Mozia told the court that he had responded to the motion of the plaintiffs seeking interlocutory injunction and that he also filed a counter-affidavit to the originating summon.
Femi Afowowe, counsel to INEC, who said the electoral umpire filed an affidavit to show cause on Jan. 10, said INEC had sought to maintain a neutral stand in the matter.
“Our application shows an indifference. We have not responded to the originating summon,” he said.
When Justice Mohammed asked him why he had filled any application against the originating summon, Afowowe said: “We will not be filing any application My Lord.”
The judge then allayed Adegboyega’s fear that INEC might still go ahead to conduct the poll.
“Do you think it is possible to conduct the election knowing fully well that the case is in court?,” Mohammed asked Adegboyega rhetorically.
The judge therefore adjourned till April 21 for hearing of the filed motions.
Recall that Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo had, on Dec. 26, 2019, at a gathering of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, said the 14 lawmakers “who were mistakenly elected into Edo State House of Assembly and are members of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) have been thrown out and the INEC is aware and will soon announce date for a fresh election, where we would have opportunity to elect credible representatives who will represent us in the House.”