Thursday, 20 March 2014

Court Adjourns PDP's Case Against 5 Defecting Governors To April

Hearing in a suit filed by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, seeking to sack five of its former governors who defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, was yesterday stalled due to legal technicalities.
The affected governors, Alhaji Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano) and Abdulfatai Ahmed (Kwara), frustrated the attempt by the plaintiff to make progress in the case.
They insisted before the Federal High Court yesterday that the court processes in the matter had not been duly served on them.
The governors said they only appeared in court in protest and that trial could not commence until they had been properly served.
The PDP had through its counsel, Alex Izinyon, SAN, had approached the court seeking an order to sack the five governors.
But over three months after the move was initiated, there had been a lot of motions filed without any progress being made, owing to the threshold issue of service.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, counsel to the defendants submitted that the plaintiffs were not yet properly served with processes and so hearing in the matter could not proceed.
About three of them brought separate ex-parte applications seeking to vacate an earlier order procured by the PDP to serve them through the national headquarters of the APC.
But Izinyon alleged that the governors had been trying to avoid service, describing it as a way to frustrate the hearing.
He, however, prayed the court through a motion on notice to grant the plaintiff leave to serve the defendants in their liaison offices instead of the national office, which had been in contention.
But the five governors teamed up to fault the motion on notice on the grounds that it was self-destructive.
They claimed that having argued that they were not properly served before the court, the PDP could not bring any motion on notice for substituted service.
The trial judge had raised the issue before the five governors took turns to canvass for termination of the motion.
After listening to the parties, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, adjourned till April 7 to hear the ex parte applications by the governors and the motion on notice by the PDP on the issue and possibly give ruling.
It will be recalled that hearing in the suit was initially stalled on February 6 following confusion over the address of the national secretariat of the APC.
The five governors were not represented in court at the commencement of proceedings in the suit on January 27, when the judge fixed February 6 for hearing.
The judge had directed that the hearing notice be pasted at the national secretariat of the APC as a means of substituted service on the five governors, in addition to its advertisement in two national dailies.
Although the governors were represented by lawyers when the suit came up on February 6, the court could not hear the matter because while the order for substituted service of the hearing notice on the governors indicated No. 6, Guinea Bissau Street, Wuse Zone 6, as the address of the APC national secretariat, the service was done at a different address – No. 40, Blantyre Street in Wuse 2, the location of the party’s new office.
The disagreement over the development stalled the scheduled hearing.
Izinyon explained that the court bailiff, who executed the service, initially called at No. 6, Guinea Bissau Street, Wuse Zone 6 – APC’s address as at the time the court gave the order – only to see a note on the gate, saying that the party had moved shop to No. 40, Blantyre Street, Wuse 2, where he subsequently pasted the hearing notice.
But the lawyers of the defected governors insisted that the notice should be served at the old address.
They refused the judge’s request to receive the notice on behalf of their clients in the courtroom, and instead, filed a motion to challenge the service of the hearing notice.
PDP is asking the court to sack the five governors on the grounds that by their defection, they have forfeited their offices to the party, on which platform they were elected.
If the governors are sacked, PDP wants the court to order their deputy governors or the speakers of the state houses of assembly to assume their positions.
The party also wants the court to make an order mandating and directing the Houses of Assembly of Adamawa, Rivers, Sokoto, Kano and Kwara states to commence impeachment proceedings against the governors.

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