By Christiana Ekpa
Labour Party (LP) has expressed shock over Monday judgment by the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba, Delta State, where it sacked Labour Party’s Ngozi Okolie who is representing Aniocha/Oshimili Constituency in the House of Representatives.
Recall that the court ruled that Hon. Okolie was not a member of the Labour Party by the date of the primary election, and thus, he was not properly sponsored by the party.
But in a statement issued yesterday by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Obiora Ifoh, Labour Party said the judgment is clearly inconsistent with the position of the law already settled even by superior courts, including the Supreme Court.
The statement said “The issue of nomination of candidates as well as membership are internal affairs of the party beyond the jurisdiction of courts. It is only a political party that can determine who its members are and who their flag bearer for an election should be.
“The courts have in a plethora of cases held that the court has no jurisdiction to intervene in the internal affairs of a political party.
“In the case of ARDO & ANOR v. NYAKO & ORS (2013) LPELR-CA/YL/15/2012 (CONSOLIDATED), the court of appeal, per Per DENTON-WEST, J.C.A., held that; “However it is a notorious principle of law that courts have no right whatsoever to descend into the internal affairs of political parties as to choose their candidates for them” or decide the status of their membership.
“This position is more vividly expounded in the case of AGI v. PDP & ORS (2016) LPELR-SC.256/2016, where the Supreme Court held that; “… a party is supreme over its own affairs……A party is like a club. A voluntary association. It has its rules, regulations, guidelines, and Constitution…”
“Part of the rules and guidelines of the Labour Party is to accord membership to any Nigerian whoso desire, and including by way of a waiver. If you look at our guidelines, it is very clear, that we can grant a waiver to people who are joining us during the election, and Labour Party in observance of its own relevant rules and guidelines discharged its obligations by granting a waiver to Hon. Ngozi Okolie.
“So, It is our inalienable right under our own rules and we activated it to the fullest. The electoral law also gave us the power to field candidates and further gave us the power to equally substitute candidates.
“The decision of the tribunal is against clearly established jurisprudence. Where the leadership (NWC/NEC) of a party regards a person as a member of the party eligible to contest the primaries, no member of the party can complain against such a decision. Such an issue is within the the domestic and internal affairs of the party over which the courts have no jurisdiction as such is not justiciable.
“An action based on determination of membership of a political party is not justiciable. Therefore the judgement by the tribunal is not acceptable to us and it is also not the final. The petitioner obtained a mere phyric victory that will fall flat on appeal. We are putting our documents together and we are going ahead to appeal the judgment immediately.
“It is very clear that powerful people in Delta state are involved in the matter and obviously we expect some of these arm-twisting and political bravado, but ultimately, we believe that judgment will be served.
“We have also noted the tension mounting in the camps of the Labour Party and Obidient families across the nation and beyond on the possible spill-over of the judgment in Delta state. We, therefore call on you to keep calm as we will ensure that none of our mandates is snatched away. Let me assure you that every case has its own circumstances and its own merit and all cases are treated on their merits and their special circumstances.
“Obviously, this will not have any effect on any other election petition or the election generally. But we insist that the courts should be consistent in what they say because that will make the law to be very certain and decisive. I am very sure that the Delta state judgment against our representative in the National Assembly will be upturned at the end of the day.”