PDP, APC trade words over Oshiomhole’s petition in Rivers
‘Real opponent of APC in Rivers is not PDP, but the judiciary’
The petition written by National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, urging the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice A. H Iyayi-Lamikanra for the transfer of Suit No. OHC/4355/2019 from Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu to another judge of Rivers State High Court is already generating arguments between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and major opposition APC in the state. While APC is alleging that its major headache in Rivers is not specifically PDP but the judiciary, which it claimed has been pocketed by Governor Nyesom Wike, the ruling party however contests the allegations made by Oshiomhole against the Justice Kingsley-Chukwu.
Oshiomhole had, in a petition dated December 27, 2019 expressed bias in the capacity of Justice Kingsley-Chukwu to discharge justice in the case involving his party in Rivers State. He therefore called on the state’s Chief Judge to transfer the case to another judge.
The petition reads: “Following the Supreme Court decision nullifying the Congresses of APC in Rivers State and effectively disqualifying the party from participating in the 2019 gubernatorial elections, the APC decided to restrategise and reposition. On September 6, 2019 the APC constituted a Caretaker Committee to pilot the affairs of the party and also scheduled the conduct of Congresses to elect its leaders at various levels. One Ibrahim Umah immediately instituted Suit No. PHC/3098/2019 at the Rivers State High Court challenging inter alia the proposed congresses and obtained an interim injunction restraining APC from conducting the proposed congresses.”
Oshomhole stated further that while APC objected to the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit and on December 18 2019, the court struck out the suit for want of jurisdiction, thereby allowing the party to proceed with its restrategising process.
According to Oshiomhole, “Before the court rendered it’s decision striking out Suit No. PHC/3098/2019, one Igo Aguma filed a similar Suit No OHC/4355/2019) against the APC challenging the composition of the Caretaker Committee. The action was commenced by Originating Summons on December 16 2019, assigned to Justice Kingsley-Chukwu, and applications seeking interlocutory and interim injunctions were filed alongside the originating process.
“By the civil procedure rules of the Rivers State High Court, the APC was entitled to 21 days within which to enter an appearance and file their necessary processes in defence. Curiously, it was brought to our attention that Justice Kingsley-Chukwu had abridged that time to 48 hours. Our curiosity was further heightened when we discovered that the husband of the judge is a top leader of PDP who had previously contested for the position of chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and currently serves as the Legal Adviser of PDP in Rivers State. Expectedly, the APC had reasonable apprehension that Hon. Kingsley-Chukwu may not be able to discharge her duties as a judicial officer objectively without interference.”
Oshiomhole stated further that the foregoing fears led APC to immediately forward a petition to the Chief Judge of Rivers requesting for a reassignment of the suit to another judge of the Rivers State High Court for adjudication. This petition was endorsed to Justice Kingsley-Chukwu and on December 20 2019, the suit was listed before the same judge for hearing of the pending applications.
“Our counsel drew the attention of the court to the petition pending before the Chief Judge as well as the weighty allegations contained therein. I expected Justice Kingsley-Chukwu to have followed the time honoured tradition of judicial officers like Hon. Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, President of the Court of Appeal and Justice Mary Peter-Odili, JSC, who had recused themselves from adjudicating over cases that would likely impact on the political interest of their spouses but disappointingly, Justice Kingsley-Chukwu proceeded to entertain the suit and granted an injunction restraining the APC and the Caretaker Committee from taking any steps whatsoever.
“Curiously, the court did not consider either the pending applications but proceeded to grant the injunction upon the oral application of the plaintiffs’ counsel despite the fact that the injunction granted was different from the reliefs sought in either the applications or the substantive suit. Please find attached all the relevant court documents in support of this.”
Oshiomhole therefore said by reason of the above facts, “we have lost all confidence in the ability of Justice Kingsley-Chukwu to impartially and objectively determine Suit No. OHC/4355/2019 without any interference.”
A former Senator and chieftain of APC, Andrew Uchendu, who represented Rivers East in the 8th National Assembly, expressed sadness over the development in Rivers’ justice system, wondering whether the Chief Judge of the Federation, Justice Ibrahim Tanko is aware of the matter. While commending Oshiomhole for coming up with the petition, saying, “it is doubtful if Justice Kingsley-Chukwu would be able to discharge justice in the matter based on the facts raised by the APC national chairman.”
He also denied the accusation made by PDP that it was APC that invaded the court, saying, “On the contrary, it was PDP, under the directives of Governor Wike, that invaded the court. The judiciary in Rivers is more or less like a private estate of PDP in Rivers State.”
In another response to the petition, a legal practitioner and chieftain of Rivers APC, Eric Apia, said, “Justice Kingsley-Chukwu ought to recuse herself from the case,” further alleging that Governor Wike is planning to ensure that APC is persistently destabilized ahead of the 2023 elections so that the party would be deprived from participating in the elections like what happened in the last elections in Rivers State “when APC couldn’t field any candidate for any of the elective positions in the state. The real opponent of APC in Rivers is not PDP, but the judiciary.”
But in a swift reaction, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, dismissed Oshiomhole’s petition and allegations against the judge, Wike, and PDP. He stressed that the whole scenario indicated that the APC is not capable of internal democracy just as it proves that their national chairman is incapable of organising the party and must have lost focus.
According to him, “What concerns PDP in the internal running of APC and in what way is Governor Wike responsible for the fact that APC was unable to field candidates during the last general election in Rivers State?”Ologbondiyan added that it has become the trademark of APC to point accusing fingers at PDP for all its shortcomings and incapability. He advised APC to put his party in order and leave PDP out of its internal wrangling, as Oshiomole was doing in his home state, Edo.
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