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LP Faults Delta Rep Member Sacking by Tribunal

PoliticsLP Faults Delta Rep Member Sacking by Tribunal
  • Insists candidate lawfully sponsored
  • Alleges judicial complicity

The leadership of Labour Party has faulted a tribunal judgement that sacked its member representing Aniocha/Oshimil Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Ngozi Okolie.

The party in a statement signed by its acting National Publicity Secretary and made available to journalists in Abuja yesterday, disagreed with the ruling that it failed to sponsor its candidate in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended).

This was even as the party alleged that it was that powerful people in Delta State are involved in the matter, adding that it was not surprised by what it described as ‘arm-twisting and political bravado’ that won’t last.

The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba, Delta State, on Monday nullified the election of Ngozi Okolie of the Labour Party, for the House of Representatives.

In the judgement that lasted for over five hours, the three-member tribunal headed by Justice A.Z. Mussa, disqualified Okolie, and declared the runner up in the February 25, 2023 National Assembly election, Ndudi Elumelu of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), as winner.

Elumelu had in a petition number EPT/DL/HR/06/2023 approached the tribunal, seeking to disqualify Okolie on the grounds that he was not properly sponsored by the Labour Party, and that he did not resign his position as a public office holder before contesting under the Labour Party.

In its judgement, the tribunal agreed with the petitioners that the second respondent (Okolie) was not duly sponsored by the third respondent (Labour Party) as he was not a member of the party as at May 28, 2022 when the primary purportedly held.

But in its response, the national leadership of the party did not only expressed shock, it also described the judgment as “clearly inconsistent with the position of the law, which it said had already been “settled even by superior courts, including the Supreme Court”.

The party explained that “the issue of nomination of candidates as well as membership are internal affairs of the party beyond the jurisdiction of courts. It is only a political party that can determine who its members are and who their flag bearer for an election should be.

“The courts have in a plethora of cases held that the court has no jurisdiction to intervene in the internal affairs of a political party”, Labour Party declared.

Citing the case of ARDO & ANOR v. NYAKO & ORS (2013) LPELR-CA/YL/15/2012 (CONSOLIDATED), the court of appeal, per Per DENTON-WEST, J.C.A., which held that; “ it is a notorious principle of law that courts have no right whatsoever to descend into the internal affairs of political parties as to choose their candidates for them” or decide the status of their membership”.

The party added that “the position is more vividly expounded in the case of AGI v. PDP & ORS (2016) LPELR-SC.256/2016, where the Supreme Court held that; “… a party is supreme over its own affairs……A party is like a club. A voluntary association. It has its rules, regulations, guidelines, and Constitution…”

Consequently, Obiora explained that part of the rules and guidelines of the Labour Party is to accord membership to any Nigerian whoso desire, and including by way of a waiver.

He said: “If you look at our guidelines, it is very clear, that we can grant a waiver to people who are joining us during the election, and Labour Party in observance of its own relevant rules and guidelines discharged its obligations by granting a waiver to Hon. Ngozi Okolie. So, It is our inalienable right under our own rules and we activated it to the fullest. The electoral law also gave us the power to field candidates and further gave us the power to equally substitute candidates.

“The decision of the tribunal is against clearly established jurisprudence. Where the leadership (NWC/NEC) of a party regards a person as a member of the party eligible to contest the primaries, no member of the party can complain against such a decision. Such an issue is within the the domestic and internal affairs of the party over which the courts have no jurisdiction as such is not justiciable.

“An action based on determination of membership of a political party is not justiciable. Therefore the judgement by the tribunal is not acceptable to us and it is also not the final. The petitioner obtained a mere phyric victory that will fall flat on appeal.

Meanwhile the party has disclosed its readiness to appeal the judgment immediately.

It has also alleged that there were clear indications that powerful people in Delta State are involved in the outcome of the judgment.

He said: “Obviously, we expect some of these arm-twisting and political bravado, but ultimately, we believe that judgment will be served.

“We have also noted the tension mounting in the camps of the Labour Party and Obidient families across the nation and beyond on the possible spill-over of the judgment in Delta state. We, therefore call on you to keep calm as we will ensure that none of our mandates is snatched away. Let me assure you that every case has its own circumstances and its own merit and all cases are treated on their merits and their special circumstances”, he added.

He however assured that “this will not have any effect on any other election petition or the election generally.

He therefore called on the courts to be consistent in what they say because that will make the law to be very certain and decisive.

“I am very sure that the Delta state judgment against our representative in the National Assembly will be upturned at the end of the day, he concluded.

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