Court slates January 19 for definite hearing in SDP’s leadership tussle matter

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, adjourned till January 19, 2021, for definite hearing in the suit seeking to recognise the Olu Falea led National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The Judge fixed the date following an oral request by the lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr Tani Molaji (SAN), for time to enable the plaintiffs to file their counter-affidavit to the preliminary objections to the issues raised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and five other defendants.

The court had last month adjourned for definite hearing in the suit by the SDP and 11 others against the leadership of the Professor Tunde Adeniran group.

When the matter was mentioned, Molaji, informed the court that although the trial was slated to commence on December 7, following recent applications by the defendants in the suit, the trial would not be able to proceed as scheduled.

He disclosed that INEC which had all the while maintained neutrality, pledging to abide by whatever the court decided, filed a notice of preliminary objection to the suit, as well as a defence statement.

In addition, he informed the court that the 12th defendant (INEC), prayed for an extension of time for the process to be regularized and deemed filed and served on all parties.

The SDP, Chief Supo Shonibare and 10 others had in 2019 dragged Professor Adeniran and 11 others before the Court in Abuja, over the authentic leadership of the SDP.

According to them, they were elected at the party’s National Convention on March 9, 2016, for a period of four years and would leave office on March 8, 2020.

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Plaintiffs, however, averred that their tenure had not expired, when sometimes in 2018, Professor Adeniran and his group hijacked the party on claims that they were appointed at the party’s 2018 national convention.

Shonibare, who claimed to be the Acting National Chairman of the party, following the resignation of the National Chairman, Chief Olu Falae in 2019, insisted that there was no election of party officials in 2018.

The plaintiffs urged the court to hold that the 1 to 11 defendants are not the authentic leadership of the SDP.

However, the 1,2,4,9 and 11 defendants represented by Peter Nwata, in denying claims that they have colluded with INEC to file preliminary objections, informed the court that the 2 to 12 plaintiffs had no locus to institute the legal action in the first place and that their names should be struck out from the suit.

According to him while some were expelled from the party others at various times had resigned and so ceased to be members of the party.

In its own opposition to the suit, INEC maintained that the case of the plaintiffs have become statute-barred by provisions of section 251 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, adding that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter.

However, counsel to the 7 and 10 defendants, Mr R. O. Mohammed, who pleaded with the court to file its defence out of time, did not object to the hearing of the suit.

Justice Ojukwu, after listening to parties in the suit announced January 19, next year for definite hearing.


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