By Chiemeka Green, Yenagoa
The chief judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho has approved the request of the former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe for the transfer of his suit against the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the flag bearer of the party, Senator Douye Diri over the disputed September 3 governorship primaries of the party in the state.
The presiding judge of the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Justice Jane Iyang, while announcing her decision to accede to the directive of the acting chief judge of the Federal High Court, said the decision was based on the request of Chief Ndutimi Alaibe dated September 27, 2019 and received by her court on October 10, 2019.
According to her, Chief Ndutimi Alaibe’s letter did not question the credibility of the Federal High Court but expressed security concern in the state, “I hereby transfer the case, ” she ruled.
The decision of the Court, which came as surprise to the defendant’s counsels, elicited protest over the alleged secrecy and perceived ambush delivered by the plaintiff.
National Legal Adviser of the PDP and counsel to the party, Emmanuel Enoidem, counsel to the 4th and 5th respondents, Chuks Oguru kicked against the request of Chief Alaibe but counsel to Senator Douye Diri, Chiemezie V.C. Ihekweazu declined comments.
Emmanuel Enoidem, while speaking with newsmen after the Court session said, “We came in this morning only to be told that the matter has been transferred due to a letter by Chief Timi Alaibe. We are a bit taken aback at the turn of event and not because we are afraid of the case in Abuja.
“This is a man who wants to be governor of Bayelsa State and not the governor of the FCT or any other state in Nigeria. And if he is running from Bayelsa, I am afraid what kind of governor the person will make.
“So, apart from the inconvenience such a transfer may cause, we were told this morning. When the matter came up on the 2nd and was slated for Friday 18th, and later 15th, we were surprised. But for a man who wants to be governor of the state and running away on account of insecurity, what will happen to millions of Bayelsa people residing here? Instead of coming to confront the issue of insecurity he is alleging in his letter, he is running away. This is not how to be a good governor.”
Chuks Oguru, counsel to the 4th and 5th defendants, who also complained about Chief Timi Alaibe’s letter said, “Court matter is not done in the way of Robin Hood method to lie in wait for innocent way farers. We should have been put on notice. We find the method of the plaintiff objectionable because parties are not allowed to go forum shopping.
“If you are sure of your facts, you go to court and argue your case. Anywhere they take us to, we will meet them with concrete facts, facts for facts, jurisprudence for their law and we will match them constitutionality for their own constitutionality. Anywhere they go in Abuja or even the House of Lords, we are very prepared because we are sure of our grounds. You know the nitty-gritty of the case is that the plaintiff wants to torpedo the entire primary election that produced the second defendant, Senator Douye Diri as the flag bearer of the PDP.”
But the lead counsel to Chief Timi Alaibe, Ayodele Adedipe said the decision for the transfer of the case to Abuja was the decision of the plaintiff and that he expressed security concern about the matter being heard in Yenagoa, and the CJ found merit in his concern and directed the presiding judge and acceded to the request.
Adedipe described the comments by the defense counsels as diversionary and petty. “The point here is that the plaintiff said he had confidence in the judge and sited an example of the incident where a Federal High Court was invaded some time ago. Because of that he said, let us have the legal battle on a neutral ground where people can come to court and lawyers can advocate without fear. And when people come and play to the gallery over the decision, I don’t have much comment on that.”
Chief Alaibe, who approached the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa in suit No. FHC/YNG/CS/99/2019 also included as defendants the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Douye Diri, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and Embeleakpo Alale for himself and representing the elected local government chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors of the PDP allowed to be delegates at the elective State Congress of the PDP in Bayelsa State held on September 3, 2019.
Also joined in the suit as defendant, is Doubra Kumokou, for himself and on behalf of the three Ad-Hoc delegates allowed at the elective State Congress. Alaibe is seeking, with an application, for cancellation of the result of the primary election based on cited procedural flaws.
The suit, which was filed in pursuant to Order 3(9) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, seeks answers to questions bordering on obvious non-adherence to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Electoral Act 2010, the People’s Democratic Party Constitution and Election Guidelines, by the state chapter of the party in the conduct of the ward congresses, inclusion of local government council officials in the delegates list and the procedure for inclusion of three ad-hoc delegates.
Citing specific sections of relevant laws and guidelines, Alaibe is asking the court to examine the entire processes that resulted in the primaries and rule in his favour in the light of violations committed in a desperate move to impose a pre-determined hand-picked candidate on the people out of 21 aspirants.
It would be recalled that the Timi Alaibe Campaign Organisation had raised objections against what it described as gross disrespect for legal procedures and party guidelines in the build-up to the conduct of the governorship primary election by the State Chapter of the PDP. The objection covered open disobedience to the party constitution and electoral guidelines and the manner in which Ward Congresses were conducted; among others.