Legal Nigeria

Drama as Apapa, Abure factions of LP clash in court

It took the intervention of security operatives to stop members of the Alhaji Lamidi Apapa and Julius Abure-led faction of the Labour Party from raining fistcuffs on each other at the premises of the Federal High Court, in Abuja on Thursday.

This was after the court adjourned a suit filed against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC for recognizing Athan Achonus as the governorship candidate of the party for the November 11 governorship election by the Abure faction of the party.

The drama began in the courtroom when Kehinde Edun, who announced an appearance for LP (1st plaintiff), told Justice Inyang Ekwo that he was in court to file a discontinuance notice in the matter.

Edun, who also announced himself as National Legal Adviser of LP, said “On behalf of the 1st plaintiff, we want to inform the court that the 1st plaintiff was joined without authorisation.

“I am here to file a notice of discontinuance. We have no case against the defendant (Independent National Electoral Commission).”

Taken aback by Edun’s submission, Anderson Asemota, who had been appearing for all the plaintiffs, including the 1st plaintiff (LP), said the matter was slated for hearing.

He said he was served with a notice of joinder by Imo governorship candidate, Achonu, through his lawyer, Okwudili Anozie, who had earlier announced his appearance as party seeking to be joined.

“The national legal adviser said the suit was filed without authorisation.” the judge told Asemota.

But Asemota said Edun was not the party’s national legal adviser.

The lawyer, who said the national legal adviser had just stepped out, said the national youth leader was in court, pointing to a litigant, who stood up for recognition.

Asemota stated that the LP, whom he represented in court, had not briefed him about the discontinuance of the suit.

Besides, he said he had not been served with the notice Edun planned to file.

He argued that as a procedure, Edun had to be in the matter first by applying to be joined before he would notify him of his plan to file a notice of discontinuance.

The judge then asked Edun if he had served Asemota with the application.

“I will serve them now,” Edun responded.

Justice Ekwo consequently adjourned the matter until Jan. 11 to hear the notice of discontinuance.

While Asemota represented the Alhaji Lamidi Apapa faction, Edun appeared for the Julius Abure-led faction of LP.

Meanwhile, shortly after the court adjourned the matter, some members loyal to Apapa appeared in court, challenging Edun’s move to discontinue their suit.

The development resulted in a shouting match prompting the officers of the King’s Guard and some staff members of the court to intervene.

The plaintiffs in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1357/2023 include LP; Alhaji Apapa (Acting National Chairman); Alhaji Lawal Saleh (Acting National
Secretary) and Comrade Abayomi Arabambi (National Publicity Secretary).

Others are Comrade Anslem Eragbe (National Youth Leader); Barr. Akingbade Oyelekan (National Legal Adviser) and Chief Joseph Ikechukwu Ukaegbu (Gubernatorial candidate, Imo State) as 1st to 7th plaintiffs respectively.

The plaintiffs, in their motion ex-parte, sued INEC as the sole defendant.

They had sought an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from “recognising any other person or persons laying claim to the LP gubernatorial ticket in Imo governorship election slated for 11th November 2023 other than the 7th plaintiff (Ukaegbu) who emerged from the primary conducted by the Lamidi Apapa-led National Working Committee (NWC) of LP on April 16.

They also sought an order of mandatory injunction directing or compelling INEC to recognise, upload and publish Ukaegbu’s name as LP governorship candidate in Imo, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously with this ex-parte application.

They equally sought an order of mandatory injunction directing INEC to upload Apapa and Saleh’s names as the acting national chairman and acting national secretary including other Apapa-led NWC members, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously with this ex-parte application.

But Justice Ekwo declined to grant the motion, directing them to put INEC on notice to respond to why the court should not grant the application

In its response, INEC prayed the court to dismiss Apapa’s motion, seeking to replace the party’s governorship candidate in Imo.

INEC, in its affidavit to show cause pursuant to the court order, told Justice Ekwo that the plaintiffs’ suit was statute barred.