The Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, has affirmed the Labour Party leadership in Ebonyi State, thus setting aside the decision of the Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki delivered on August 3, 2022.
The court also upheld the governorship candidature of Edward Nkwegu, to fly the flag of the party in the state.
In a unanimous decision in appeal No. CA/E/224/2022 between party, its officials and Oko Eze, the court constituted by Uzoamaka Ndukwe-Anyanwu, Joseph Olubunmi Oyewole, and Joseph Eyo Ekanem, set aside the August 3, 2022 decision of the lower court.
In the original suit, the plaintiff, Eze, had challenged his removal as the Chairman, Caretaker Committee of the party in the state and the appointment of Hon. Jioke Godwin as Chairman to reorganise the party towards the election.
He had also prayed the lower court to restrain and the Independent National Electoral Commission from effecting any change in its candidature in the state for the governorship election. All the prayers were granted.
However, appearing before the court, the party, through its counsel, Chijioke Emeka, argued that the party was denied fair hearing in the manner in which the court rushed through with the case and hurriedly entered judgment against all procedural safeguards.
It also argued that the party has the power to control its caretaker leadership without judicial interference. He further argued that the issue on the governorship candidature of Labour Party in the state was speculative and premature.
Counsel for the 1st Respondent (Eze), E. C. Ekeji, said the party was given an opportunity for a fair hearing, which it waived. Ekeji also argued that although Eze’s tenure as caretaker chairman had lapsed, the lower court was right to grant him reliefs relating to his governorship candidature of the party for the 2023 election.
In its decision read by Justice Ekanem, the court allowed the appeal and set aside the decision of the lower court in its entirety.
It agreed with the party that it was denied fair hearing in the case.
The court upheld the power of the party to decide on its caretaker leadership. It also set aside the decision of the lower court restraining Labour Party and INEC from substituting its candidate as being speculative and anticipatory, agreeing with the party that nothing was placed before the lower court to support such a claim.
But reacting on Monday, the plaintiff, Eze, said no court order removed him or anybody from being the party’s candidate in the 2023 general election in the state.
He said, “In the judgement of the Court of Appeal, there is no order enrolled by the court. The court did not order that anybody should be removed from any office and it did not say that anybody should be replaced with anybody.
“The court merely said the suit at the lower court was speculative, because there was nothing to show that the Labour Party had substituted anybody. And the court also noted that the only condition for substituting somebody is when the person has died or the person has voluntarily withdrawn.
“This was also mentioned in the judgement; and the proceedings at the lower court were set aside. And the court did not in anyway confer on Labour Party the right to submit any other persons name in replacement with whoever that was there. That is not the intention of the court, because the court already said the whole thing was speculative and the court does not deal on speculation.
“Until a real substance comes before the court, then it can now give a real judgement. But for now, it is on the grounds that whoever the Labour Party had kept, is still standing until any court will set aside the proceedings brought on the person and substitute him with another person. There is no court order removing any person either as a candidate in any of the positions or substituting anybody with anybody.”