26 October 2006

Nigeria: Suspension - Ruling On Atiku's Case for October 31

Abuja — An Abuja High Court sitting in Gwagwalada has fixed October 31, this year for ruling on whether or not it has jurisdiction to probe the suspension of Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Vice President had filed a suit before the court asking his suspension from the party be nullified on the grounds that he was not given fair hearing before the suspension over alleged anti-party activities.

His plan is to seek legal interpretation to enable him contest the 2007 presidential election on the party's platform, a move the party wants curtailed.

The party presented eight grounds to the court to strike out Atiku's suit, saying his move countered provisions of the party's constitution.

PDP said the suspension of the vice president was purely an internal affair and that its constitution recommended internal resolution, rather than legal solution by any member.

Counsel to PDP, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), had stated that the suit filed by Atiku was wrongly commenced with originating summons, arguing that his case ought to have been commenced by a way of writ of summons which allows for resolution of disputes through the use of oral evidence.

Babalola averred that the vice president to say that he was not given fair hearing would require oral evidence from both parties before the court can enter any decision.

Atiku however, disagreed, saying there was nothing wrong in his case and commencing it by a way of originating summons.

He argued that at the time he was invited by a committee set up to investigate allegations against him, he was already before a court of law, which had stopped the party from taking any disciplinary action against him.

He wants the court to decide whether the decision by the party to suspend him was not subjudice.

In order to gain time, the court directed both parties in the case to reduce their arguments into writing which they filed and adopted yesterday.

Chief Babalola (SAN), led 12 other senior counsels to present PDP's case while Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN), led nine others to present Atiku's case before the court; and each of the parties was give 30 minutes to adopt the brief.

"We have before the court the originating summon dated 4th October; our preliminary objection to the writ dated 13th October; our counter-affidavit filed on 18th October ; the amended written address of the defendants; the amended written address filed by the plaintiff today and the respondent's reply filed today also.

I adopt the notice of preliminary objection; the amended written address and the reply.

"There are eight grounds of objection formulated based on the originating summons.

"I submit that if the court finds in our favour any of the eight grounds, this originating summons should be struck out.

"I intend to elaborate on the first and the eighth.

"On ground one, it is common knowledge that originating summons is a method of approaching court where the matter is of deconstruction, interpretation of statute and where facts are not in dispute.

"The plaintiff (Atiku) is claiming that he was not given fair hearing with respect to his suspension; that he be given an opportunity to present his case before he is suspended. All other reliefs are on failure to give him fair hearing."

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