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Court extends interim order against INEC, PDP over 26 defected Rivers lawmakers

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday, extended the Dec. 15 interim order stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from taking any action step against the 26 Rivers House of Assembly members who defected to All Progressives Congress (APC).

Justice Donatus Okorowo extended the order following an application by counsel for the  lawmakers, Steve Adehi, SAN, and supported by Ken Njemanze, SAN, who appeared for the Rivers House of Assembly.

Although PDP’s lawyer, Adeyemi Ajibade, SAN, opposed the application, Justice Okorowo agreed that based on Order 26, Rule 10 of the FHC, the court had the discretionary power to grant the plea in the interest of justice.

The judge held that he was persuaded by the reasons given by Adehi and Njemanze that granting the order would be better in the interest of justice.

Okorowo, who adjourned the matter until Jan 24 for hearing of the applications, said: “application for the extension of the order of the lifespan of the ex-parte order pending the hearing and determination of motion on notice is hereby granted.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Okorowo had, on Dec. 15, granted the ex-parte motion filed by the 26 lawmakers who dumped PDP for APC.

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The court restrained INEC from conducting fresh election to fill the seats of the 26 assembly members.

It also restrained INEC, PDP and the house of assembly from declaring their seats vacant and withdrawing their respective Certificate of Returns pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

The plaintiffs had, in the motion ex-parte marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1681/2023/ dated and filed Dec 13, sued INEC, PDP, the assembly, clerk of the assembly, Inspector-General (I-G) of Police and Department of State Service (DSS) as 1st to 6th defendants respectively.

Upon resumed hearing on Thursday, plaintiffs’ counsel, Steve Adehi, SAN, informed the court that he had a motion on notice which originally was meant for hearing today.

Adehi, however, sought an adjournment in view of the fact that Mr Lukman Fagbemi, SAN, had withdrawn appearance and a new counsel had entered appearance in the matter for the 3rd defendant (assembly) and in view of the fact that the 2nd defendant (PDP) had just served on them their response this morning.

“In any case, I ask that the matter be further adjourned to enable us serve the 3rd and 4th defendants (assembly and clerk) and to also enable us to reply on points of law to the process served on us by the counsel to the 2nd defendant,” he said.

Then K.C.O. Njemanze, SAN, told the court that he had the instruction of the 3rd defendant (assembly) to take over the brief with the original letter of instruction backing this after the withdrawal of the earlier counsel, Fagbemi.

He equally informed that a memorandum of appearance had already been filed.

A lawyer from Fagbemi’s chamber confirmed to the court that the learner silk had withdrawn from the suit.

The PDP’s lawyer, Adeyemi Ajibade, SAN, who is also the National Legal Adviser of the party, said he had an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to handle the suit and the competence of the suit itself.

He, therefore, prayed the court for an order discharging the Dec. 15 interim order granted by the court.(NAN)

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