A disgruntled faction of the Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) National Executive Committee (NEC) has vowed to appeal the decision of the Federal High Court in Abuja that refused to recognise it as the party’s authentic leadership.
Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed the suit brought before him by Olu Falae’s faction on Friday, claiming that his court lacked the necessary jurisdiction to hear the case.
The judge ruled that the leadership crisis that has rocked the SDP since 2019 is an internal party matter that his court cannot get involved in.
However, the aggrieved faction’s leader, Chief Supo Shonibare, who led the group to court, told reporters, shortly after the judge dismissed the suit, that their lawyers would study the decision and immediately approach the Court of Appeal on it.
“Definitely, the last has not been heard in this matter. We are heading to the Court of Appeal for its intervention in the suit, and we are hopeful to get justice,” he said.
According to the judge, the subject matter of the suit was an internal affair of the Social Democratic Party, and the court cannot interfere in it.
He stated that the plaintiffs are members of the party, which has an internal dispute resolution mechanism, and that the party has the authority to amend its constitution.
Justice Ekwo stated that political parties should not involve the court in their internal affairs.
He added: “I find that there is no cause of action in this case as the subject matter is internal affairs of the party.
“I decline jurisdiction on this suit, and I make an order striking out the suit for lacking in merit.”
The SDP, Chief Supo Shonibare, and 10 others took Professor Tunde Adeniran and 11 others to the Federal High Court in Abuja in 2019 to determine the SDP’s authentic leadership.
Other plaintiffs who claimed to be part of the national and state executives of SDP include Nasiru Naaba, Kelvin Damara, Saleh Dass, Cornelius Oreruan, Tunde Onokoya, Abubakar Babaiya, Hassan Adamu, Aniekwe Ikechukwu, Isaac Bello and Mohammed Ibrahim.
Professor Tunde Adeniran, Shehu Gaban, Emeka Atuma, Professor Rufai Alkali, Marian Tolopari, Dr Junaid Mohammed, Senator Ebenezer Ikeyina, Senator Erin Henshaw, David Umah, Stanley Nnanka, Joseph Achile, and INEC are listed as the 1st to 12th defendants, respectively.
In the suit marked FHA/A/ABJ/CS/1358/2019, plaintiffs claimed that they were elected at the party’s national convention on March 9, 2016, for four years and would leave office on March 8, 2020.
They claimed that their tenure had not expired when Professor Tunde Adeniran and his group hijacked the party in 2018, claiming that they were appointed at the party’s 2018 national convention.
Shonibare, who claimed to be the party’s acting national chairman after Chief Olu Falae resigned in 2019, insisted that no party officials were elected in 2018.
Furthermore, plaintiffs who based their claim to office on provisions of the party’s 2012 Constitution pointed out that neither the 2012 Constitution nor the purported one adopted by Falae and others permitted the appointment of NEC members.
They urged the court to rule that the first through eleventh defendants do not represent the genuine leadership of the SDP.
However, the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th, and 11th defendants, represented by Peter Nwata, informed the court that the 2nd to 12th plaintiffs lacked locus standi to bring the legal action in the first place and that their names should be struck out of the suit.
INEC argued in its opposition to the suit that the plaintiffs’ case had become statute-barred due to provisions of Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter.