Developing story: Court adjourns sine die, grants APC leave to approach Court of Appeal, urges parties to maintain status quo
A Port Harcourt High Court presided over by Justice Whyte Thursday, 5th August, 2021, adjourned a matter before it indefinitely.
The judge gave the ruling after listening to arguments from lawyers representing both sides in the Suit brought against the APC by Stephen Wonah & 6 orders.
The Judge said the adjournment had become necessary to allow the APC to pursue its appeal at the Appellate Court.
Tuduru Edeh, SAN, leading a team of lawyers on behalf of the APC had asked for a stay of proceedings, saying his clients had filed an appeal pertaining to Suit No. PHC/1857/CS/2021.
H.A Bello representing the claimants opposed the position of the defense, saying there was nothing in the appeal to warrant a stay in the proceedings of the court.
Buttressing its case, the APC legal team presented evidence showing the existence of a subsisting judgment of the Court of Appeal which affirms the right of Isaac Ogbobula and the Caretaker Committee that it heads to implement directives and responsibilities accorded by the National Secretariat.
That judgment which has not been vacated also offers a judicial position which cautions against what is gradually amounting to undue interferences by certain persons in the internal matters of political parties.
Justice Whyte after reviewing the arguments opted to adjourn sine die, saying the APC was free to proceed with its appeal at the Appellate Court.
But the order by the court directing parties which appeared before it to maintain the status quo is generating reactions.
What could be the reason for ordering parties to maintain status quo after the court deferred to the Court of Appeal by adjourning the matter?
Despite failing to halt APC’s Ward Congress, the Port Harcourt Telegraph had predicted in a report that Abe and his supporters who failed on the 30th of July, 2021 to shoot down APC’s electoral process would “push harder.”
The APC had only 24 hours, according to the order of court issued on August 2, to enter its defense.
Somehow, no known leader of the Abe group, including Abe himself, had his name on paper in Suit No. PHC/1857/CS/2021.
“They are probably hiding behind the mask”, said an informed source, “presumably to avoid being fingered directly, should the APC consider disciplinary action.”
Abe and his top advisers appear to be using ordinary persons as shields in prosecuting their interest
Seven persons who are seemingly from the Ikwerre speaking areas are the arrowhead in the new case which now moves from the High Court to the Court of Appeal.
They are Stephen Wonah, Uzorchi Amadi, Chidi Wegbuom, Banwo Ndubuisi, End well Omenka, Emenike Edward Adile and Worlu Wali.
The claimants had asked the High ¢ourt for an injunction restraining the APC and its Caretaker Committee Chairman in the State, Isaac Ogbobula, from proceeding with the process.
Is it possible that the Court of Appeal will acede to the request for an injunction, given the fact that the process complained of, has already started?
What will be defined as a return to status quo for instance in the Rivers APC?
What would be the disposition of the Appellate Court towards a subsisting judgment of a court of coordinate jurisdiction which the APC cited at the High Court?
These and many more would be part of issues for the Court of Appeal to determine when it begins hearing.
Prior to the release of the order of the Port Harcourt High Court on August 2, 2021 which fixed hearing for August 5, the record shows that the APC had nothing stopping it legally from going ahead with the conduct of the ward congresses in Rivers State.
In line with its guidelines for the conduct of congresses, the APC has elected leaders at the ward level in Rivers.
It has also secured delegates from the 319 wards who would be participating in the election of local government leaders and those who would serve at the State level.
On the whole, each of the 319 wards have produced 10 delegates for the next level of congresses planned for the rich oil bearing state.
While five delegates from every ward in the state totalling 1,595 who will join other statutory members including former lawmakers are expected to vote at the State level, the other five delegates also from each of the wards would vote at the locql government congresses.
So, what shall be the status quo? Will status quo be the situation which existed prior to the time that the claimants obtained an order of court on August 2, 2021?
Or, would the status quo under reference be the situation which now exists after the APC successfully conducted its ward congresses without legal impediments?
No one is sure what the interpretation of the Appellate Court would be.
But members of the public would be monitoring the legal arguments that would be advanced in course of the hearing.
Incidentally, the order of court asking the APC to respond to the particulars of the plea entered against it was dated 30th July, 2021, showing that it on that date the action commenced.
It was on that day too, it would be recalled, that the APC raised an alarm, saying it had credible information suggesting that Senator Magnus Abe and his friends were shopping at the last moment for an injunction to prevent the conduct of ward congresses.
Chief Ogbonna Nwuke, Spokesman of the APC had alleged on that occasion that there were hurried efforts by lawyers deployed by Freedom House to file papers outside official hours.
Nwuke noted that the State Chief Judge was similarly within the premises of the Judiciary after 4pm on a day that Abe and his associates were desperately seeking to halt the APC.
However, the fight to stop the conduct of APC’s congresses right from the ward, local government to the state is not restricted to Rivers alone.
In Bayelsa, Imo and Anambra, the courts have stepped in following sharp differences among members which have resulted in litigation.
Comparatively, the situation in Rivers State where the exercise has already commenced is slightly different.
In Rivers State, the failure of the Abe group to secure a restraining order is being seen as a major setback.
Many here think the latest strategy to halt the APC is a dress rehearsal of the approach adopted between 2018 and 2019.
Information emanating from the Abe camp reveal that more other cases may be filed as part of a master scheme conceived to make the APC uncomfortable.
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