Shija breaks silence, says he is still in court against Alia as Gemade demands nullification of Guber primary

Nigerian Concord Newspaper

Benue state APC governorship aspirant, Professor Terhemba Shija, has broken his silence over report that he had withdrawn his case against Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia, the party and the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Speaking through his lawyer, Kenneth Ikonne SAN in a press statement this evening, Prof. Shija who said he only amended his suit stressed that he is still in court against Alia and other defendants.

The statement reads:

I had filed two suits at the Federal High Court, Makurdi, against the APC, and Reverend Father Alia, challenging the outcome of the party’s primary elections returning Rev. Father Alia as our party’s candidate for the governorship election.

A review of the processes filed in the first suit revealed that I had already alleged that the decision by the party to reconduct its primary in only eleven, out of 23 LGAs was unsupportable, since the party’s own Electoral Appeal Panel had ruled that no primary election took place at all in any of the 23 LGAs.

My legal team and I therefore restrategized, and came to the conclusion that the best step forward was to apply to amend the first suit, include a prayer for a declaration that a reconduct of the election in anything other than the 276 council wards in the 23 LGAs was illegal, and a nullity, and an order directing the party to reconduct the primaries in all 276 electoral wards, after service of the appropriate statutory notice on INEC.

Our new strategy thus rendered the maintenance of the second suit inappropriate, and even an abuse of process – hence the decision to withdraw it, to pave the way for a full ventilation of our strategy.

In a related development, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Thursday, urged the Federal High Court in Makurdi to nullify the gubernatorial primary election of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Benue State.

He also urged the court to order for a fresh gubernatorial primary election in Benue State and also grant all the release sought in suit No: FHC/MKD/CS/55/2022.

Gemade instituted the suit against the APC, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, seeking for a declaration that the purported primary election by the APC held on May 27 and June 9, which produced Alia as flag bearer of the party was not done in compliance with section 77 and 84 of the Electoral Act 2022 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and INEC/APC guidelines

When the case came up for hearing, counsel to Rev. Fr Hyacinth Alia, Usman Sule, SAN, that of the APC, Mathew Burkaa, SAN, brought a preliminary objection to the suit filed by Gemade saying the suit was filed out of time, so the court has no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

In his reply, Gemade’s counsel, Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, submitted that the re-run election was conducted on the 9th of June, 2022 and the suit was filed on the 10th of June, 2022, so the suit can not be out of time.

He urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objections.

In the main suit, Okutepa, SAN, urged the court to nullify the election that produced Rev. Alia as the party didn’t comply with Section 87 and 84 of the Electoral Act 2022, relevant sections of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, APC and INEC guidelines and regulations.

He urged the court to order for fresh election and also grant all the reliefs sought.

Counsel to the APC, Mathew Burkaa, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the suit that the election was conducted in line with the provision of of the Electoral Act 2022, INEC and APC guidelines.

Counsel to Rev. Alia, Usman Sule, SAN, aligned himself with the submission of Burkaa, SAN.

Counsel to INEC, K.N Collins submitted that the commission will comply with the order of the court.

After listening to the arguments of the lawyers, the Presiding judge, Justice Abdul Dogo adjourned the matter for judgement on a date to be communicated to the parties in the suit.

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