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More legal woes for Secondus as court affirms PDP national chairman’s suspension

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A Rivers State High Court on September 10 affirmed the suspension of National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Uche Secondus, dealing a crucial blow on his hopes of returning to the office before the party’s national convention slated for late October.

The development came barely 24 hours after a Lagos Federal High Court refused to hear a suit through which Secondus sought to hold on to his position as PDP national chairman.

Secondus has not performed any official functions since August 27, when a Cross River State High Court sitting in Calabar barred him from returning to office as the national chairman of the party.

Secondus’ legal woes continued on September 10 when Justice Okogbule Gbasam of the Rivers State High Court delivered judgment in a suit which asked the court to determine, going by the constitution of the PDP, whether Secondus was entitled to enjoy the rights and privileges of a national chairman, having been suspended by the executives of the party at his ward – Ward 5, Ikuru Town in Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The suit was filed by the plaintiffs – Ibeawuchi Ernest Alex, Dennis Nna Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen and Umezirike Onucha.

Uche Secondus and the PDP were the respondents.

In his judgment, Justice Gbasam ruled that Secondus lost the right to function as the national chairman of the PDP as a consequence of his suspension from the party in his ward.

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Justice Gbasam further declared that any official function carried out by Secondus while he was serving the suspension was invalid.

According to the judge, Secondus could not lead a party he no longer belonged to.

He cited Article 53 of the PDP constitution which stated that a suspended member would not participate in the affairs of the party when on suspension.

Stressing that there was incontrovertible evidence that Secondus was suspended, the judge declared: “I hereby hold that the court has jurisdiction to hear the suit. I hold, therefore, that his (Secondus) suspension having been acknowledged by the party in the state, is valid. He shall not so act as national chairman. His suspension still subsists.”

The Rivers State High Court judgment was the second legal woe to befall Secondus within 24 hours as he continues his quest to return to his position as PDP national chairman.

Earlier, on September 9, Justice Tijjani Ringim of a Lagos Federal High Court had refused to entertain a suit filed by Secondus’ supporters, which sought to restrain the PDP and its national officers from calling, summoning or presiding over any meeting except the one convened by Secondus, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

The suit specifically sought to restrain the PDP and its officers from convening a national convention without Secondus being in office as national chairman.

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In refusing to hear the pro-Secondus suit, Justice Ringim cited the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Tanko Muhammad’s recent warning to judicial officers over granting of ex parte applications.

The CJN handed down the warning when he summoned chief judges of six states and the Federal Capital Territory over the issuance of conflicting court orders on the same subject matter by courts of coordinate jurisdiction under their supervision.

The ICIR had reported that three judges who were being investigated by the National Judicial Council for issuing conflicting court orders were facing dismissal, going by provisions of the NJC’s Discipline Regulations.

When Secondus’ suit came up before his court on September 9, Justice Ringim refused to entertain the matter on the grounds that it was unripe for hearing as the defendants were yet to respond to the motion.

Plaintiffs in the suit numbered FHC/L/CS/1117/2021, included: Eddy Olafeso, Rashidi Olakunle Sunmonu, Daisi Akintan, Bunmi Jenyo and Wahab Owokoniran.

The respondents included: PDP Deputy National Chairman (South) and Acting National Chairman Yomi Akinwonmi; PDP Deputy National Chairman (North) Suleiman Nazif; PDP National Secretary Ibrahim Tsaurit; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).

Citing the CJN’s directive on conflicting court orders, Justice Ringim urged the applicants to explain to the court if the suit was not an abuse of the court process.

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Consequently, he directed that the suit be returned to the Lagos Federal High Court’s administrative unit for reassignment as there was no urgency in the affidavit filed by the applicants to warrant it to be heard during vacation.

* Secondus getting the Oshiomhole treatment

The ICIR had reported that Secondus’ travails mirrors the chain of events that preceded the removal of former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomhole.

Secondus’ travails mirror the chain of events that led to Adams Oshiomhole’s removal as national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC)

In November 2019 Oshiomhole was suspended by the APC leadership in his Etsako Ward 10 in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State for alleged anti-party activities.

The development followed a protracted disagreement between Oshiomhole and Edo State governor Godwin Obaseki, who was then a member of the APC. Obaseki was later reelected as governor on the platform of the PDP after he was denied the APC governorship ticket.

It was on the basis of Oshiomhole’s suspension at the ward level that an Abuja High Court in March 2020 ordered his suspension as APC national chairman.

Justice Danlami Senchi of the Abuja High Court ruled that Oshiomhole could not remain APC national chairman after his suspension at the ward level of the party.

The Oshiomhole-led APC National Working Committee (NWC) was eventually dissolved, bringing an end to Oshiomhole’s time as national chairman, after a panel of the Court of Appeal in June 2020 dismissed his appeal against the order of the Abuja High Court which suspended him from office.

* Time running out for Secondus

With the affirmation of his suspension by the Rivers State High Court, time is fast running out for Secondus in his quest to hold on to his position as PDP national chairman until December, when the party was originally scheduled to hold its national convention, where national officers would be elected.

Secondus intends to seek reelection for a second term at the national convention.

However the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) had, at a meeting on August 28, approved a recommendation of stakeholders, including the PDP Governors Forum (PGF) and the Board of Trustees (BOT), that the national convention be held on October 31.

The NEC also resolved that the convention would hold in Abuja.

Already, the PDP NEC has set up a National Convention Organising Committee, chaired by Adamawa State Governor Ahmadu Fintiri. The committee was set up at a meeting on September 9.

A Zoning Committee, headed by Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, was also set up at the meeting. The committee is to determine the formula for zoning of offices to be contested at the national convention.

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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