Rivers APC National Assembly candidate kicks as court fixes hearing on suit by PDP
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has reserved September 26 for hearing of all applications and originating summons in a suit instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Assembly candidates of the All Progressives Congress(APC) in Rivers State.
When the matter came up in court, yesterday, the presiding judge, Justice Stephen Daylop Pam, after receiving applications from the defendants asking him to recuse himself from the case, adjourned till September 26 for a definite hearing on all the applications, including the originating summons.
But speaking outside the courtroom, Ezemonye Ezekiel-Amadi, who appeared for himself as the 12th defendant and the APC candidate for Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency, maintained that the judge should recuse himself from the case, adding that the judge was bent on handling the case, despite calls on him to recuse himself.
“We have done letters, this is the third time we have come to court, asking for the same thing and today other defendants filed a motion for the court to recuse itself. And the judge says he is going to hear everything together,” he said.
He warned that should anything go wrong in the matter, the judge should be held responsible.
Also speaking, the National Assembly candidate of APC in Rivers State insisted on his petition to the acting Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Hon Justice Olukayode Ariwoola and the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Hon Justice John Terhemba Tsoho to recall their case files currently before Justice Stephen Daylop-Pam of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt and transfer same to another judge in Abuja.
The candidates said that they have lost confidence in justice Daylop-Pam over his association with the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
According to the candidates, the refusal of justice Daylop-Pam to recuse himself from the suit despite several applications is a plot by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to delist them from the ballot for the 2023 general election.
Signatories to the petition include Ezemonye Ezekiel-Amadi, Henry Paul Odidi, Ininasiya C West and Nwibani Eric Sorbari. Others are Chikordi Dike, Collyns Owhindo, Ambassador Oji Ngofa, Eric Chinedu Apia, Chisom Dike, Ephraim Nwuzi and Allison Igbiks.
The petition reads in part “We are the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State for National Assembly seats in the 2023 general elections.
“The Peoples Democratic Party filed the above suit against us, seeking to nullify our primaries and consequently delisting our names from the ballots of the 2023 General Elections.
“The matter, alongside all similar matters filed by the PDP against all other
parties and seeking the same relief of delisting from the 2023 ballots, was assigned by the Administrative Judge to Honorable Justice Stephen Daylop-Pam for determination.
“On the July 25 when the matter came up, the 12th defendant, who appeared in person, orally applied that Hon. Stephen Daylop-Pam recuses himself from the suit as he, the 12th defendant, had already written to the Administrative Judge requesting that the case filed be remitted to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another Judge of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, for determination.
“Apart from the letter written by the 12th defendant, everyone of us wrote individually to the Administrative Judge requesting that the matter be taken away from Hon. Justice Pam. One of the grounds of our Petition was that Hon. Justice Pam is extremely close to Wike, whom he delivered in his favour, the controversial Federal Inland Revenue Service VAT case. We know so much that transpired between Justice Pam and the governor at that time even though for the sake of decency, we did not state and have not stated all that transpired in that matter.
“We also stated that the Rivers State Legal Adviser of the PDP was seen on several occasions while this suit is still pending, having free ingress and egress to the chambers of Hon. Justice Pam, having meetings with him. How else can one infer likelihood of bias?
“By letter, dated August 8, the administrative judge responded
to our letters and directed that we go back to the same court and orally apply to Hon. Justice Pam to recuse himself so that he will, according to the Administrative Judge, write a considered ruling on our application.
“Your Lordship, we are dissatisfied with the decision of the Administrative Judge. In the first place, we had made the application on the 25/7/2022 when the matter came up. The reaction of the trial judge was that he would take the application together with the substantive Suit. To us, that is a trap, because the danger in it is that he is likely to overrule us and go ahead to deliver judgment in the substantive suit against us.
“Hon. Justice Pam taking our application for recusal for the second time with the substantive suit is a contradiction in terms. In doing that, he will have done what we are asking him not to do.
” Your Lordship, Hon. Justice Pan is a human being, our petition to the Admin. Judge, which he also responded to, must have no doubt bruised his ego. It will be dangerous to allow a man with bruised ego to go on with our matter.
We do not have confidence in what will be the outcome of the case. Justice is rooted in confidence. No matter how well and unbiased Hon. Justice Pam will appear to be, it will not be morally right for him to continue with the hearing of our matter. Even if he rules in our favour, the Plaintiff will feel that the Learned trial Judge buckled under the pressure of petition.
“Your Lordship, we are aware that there is a circular on what a trial judge handling a pre-trial case should do when a petition is written against him and that is: he should recuse himself.
We are appealing to you sir, to recall the case filed from Hon. Justice Pam and re-assign same to another Judge of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for determination”.
However, Dike Udenna, one of the counsels for the PDP, described the defendants as being “jumpy” about the case, noting that the defendants filed their applications and served on parties the same morning and exect the court to entertain the motions.