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COURT CLEARS JONATHAN, ATIKU FOR PDP PRIMARIES

By NBF News
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PRESIDENT Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday at the legal turf in Abuja shared the spoils of war as an Abuja High Court rejected separate bids to stop them from contesting the forthcoming presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled for January 13, 2011.

Also yesterday, the Federal High Court, Abuja fixed January 13, 2011 to rule on the request of the National Democratic Party (PDP) to nullify all parties' primaries conducted outside the time line prescribed by the First Election Time Table of 2011 General Elections issued on September 7, 2010.

While a PDP leader, Alhaji Sadiq Aliyu Jada, had filed an action before the court praying it to nullify the waiver granted Atiku by the PDP, which allowed him to return to the party and to join the presidential race, some perceived loyalists of Atiku: Yahaya Kwande, Dubem Onyia, and Alhaji Lawal Kaita also instituted a suit, seeking to stop the PDP from fielding Jonathan as its standardbearer for the 2011 presidential election.

On the action of Atiku's loyalists against Jonathan, the court dismissed the preliminary objections raised by Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) on behalf of PDP and Dr. Alex Aigbe Izinyon (SAN) for Jonathan as he declared that the plaintiffs had shown sufficient locus standi to initiate and sustain the action.

According to Justice Bello, the three plaintiffs were desirous of elective positions in the party executive committee and as such the emergence of Jonathan as the President if he should scale the primaries will affect their ambition in view of the principle of zoning adopted by PDP.

The judge held that he was satisfied by the affidavit evidence before him that the PDP has clearly adopted a zoning principle with regards to elective offices and as such any attempt to breach the said principle could be challenged in court by aggrieved party members upon the fulfilment of conditions precedent.

'The preliminary objections by the defendants therefore fails and is accordingly dismissed,' he ruled.

In his verdict on the action filed by Jada, the trial Judge, Ishaq Bello, rejected entreaties by the PDP stalwart to stop Atiku from contesting the party's presidential primaries on the premise that he lacked the locus standi (legal right) to initiate the action as he failed to show what special interest he had and how the said interest would be injured by decision of the party to accord Atiku waiver.

Bello described the plaintiff as mere 'busy body or a meddlesome interloper who has only come to court to run judicial errands.' He held that the only way the court would exercise jurisdiction on Jada's action is if he had convinced the court of his interest, ruling that the failure to show what special interest or injury he had suffered by the waiver was fatal to the action as brought.

Accordingly, he dismissed the suit for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

Delivering his verdict on the substantive motion having thrown out the preliminary objection, the Judge noted that the PDP leadership has an obligation under section 7(2) (c) of its constitution to enforce the zoning principles enshrined in its constitution.

He held that should the party's leadership fail to enforce the zoning, aggrieved persons with requisite locus standi can approach the court for remedy.

However, he noted that the party was yet to nominate any candidate in breach of the zoning formula, declaring that until the party has nominated a candidate in that light, the court can be invited to remedy the breach.

Meanwhile, the judge of the Federal High Court, Abdu Kafarati will on Thursday rule on the interlocutory application filed by Chief Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN) on behalf of NDP, seeking to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), whether by itself or agents from adhering to or in any other way using or relying on the Time Table of Activities for 2011 General Elections in so far as it relates to the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates for 2011 general elections and other matters relating or ancillary thereto pending the determination of this suit.

Onwugbufor contends that whereas 'the time table by INEC issued on September 7, last year is valid and subsisting as it relates to the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidate for general elections,' the second time table is therefore invalid and unlawful and any action taken by any party that relates to primaries and nomination of candidates is therefore a nullity.

He said NDP had conducted its primaries and nominated its candidate and consequently forwarded its final lists of candidates to them. He noted that INEC failed to issue the statutory forms CF001 and CF002 'so as to complete all nomination formalities as prescribed by the Electoral Act, 2010.

The party therefore prayed the court to declare that having regard that the continued failure and or refusal by the defendant to issue the said forms is contrary to law and ultra vires the powers of the defendant.