Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang and other defendants have approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, praying the court for a preliminary objection to the suit filed by the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, over the outcome of the recent Nigeria Governors’ Forum election.
In separate motions on notice filed at the court last Friday by counsel to the first and third defendants, Jonah Jang and Osaro Onaiwu, respectively as well as on behalf of the fourth defendant, the Registered Trustees of the Governors’ Forum, they asked the court to set aside the claims of the plaintiff as lacking in merit.
The cases were filed by Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) on behalf of the first and third defendants while F.N Nwosu filed on behalf of the fourth defendant. Both suits with No.CV/3389/13 also had the Director-General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Asishana Bayo Okauru, as defendant and respondent.
Pursuant to Section 6 (6) (A) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and order 22, rules 2, 3 and 4 of the FCT High Court, both counsels are seeking preliminary objection to the plaintiff’s claims on the following grounds: that the writ of summons was not issued in accordance with procedural due process, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory lacks jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiff’s claims, even if the High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiff’s claims, theplaintiff lacks locus standi to bring the suit as constituted and that even if the plaintiff has the locusstandi to bring the suit, the plaintiff’s claims are not justiciable as they relate to a mere dispute as to political dignity.
In their statements of defence, both the first and third defendants as well as the fourth defendant, denied allegations contained in the statement of claim though admitted those in paragraphs 2, 5, 6 and 7 of the statement of claim.
Also a major issue in the statement of claims was the process of the NGF election which the defendants faulted.
They noted that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum is only a platform for peer review among governors of the states of Nigeria and to collaborate on matters of public policy, provide good governance, sharing good practice and enhance cooperation.
They further noted that from its formation, the chairman of the NGF has always been appointed by consensus of all members of the forum and that Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi became chairman of the NGF in 2011 by consensus for a term of 2 years, expiring in May 2013.
The defendants referred to the meeting of the NGF of 20th May 2013 at the Rivers State Lodge in Abuja where, they claimed, majority of the governors present demanded for Amaechi, whose tenure had expired, to step down and allow another member to preside for the purpose of appointing a new chairman but rebuffed byAmaechi.
In the light of this, they claimed that 19 of the 36 governors present at the meeting had indicated in writing their support for Governor Jonah Jang as chairman of the NGF but that Amaechi insisted there must be an election and that he must preside at the meeting.
Governor Amaechi subsequently produced ballot papers which, they claimed, he had unilaterally printed without prior authority of other members of the NGF and started distributing same for the purpose of the election.
The defendants further stated that when GovernorAmaechi refused to step down, 18 of the 35 members present at the meeting immediately indicated their “unflinching support” for Governor Jonah Jang as the new chairman of the forum “without prejudice to their objection to the insistence of Governor Amaechi on presiding over the election process”.
In spite of this, they noted that Governor Amaechi and the second defendant, Asishana Bayo Okauru, still went ahead to announce that Governor Amaechi emerged winner of the election.
In which case, the first, third and fourth defendants are contending that the plaintiff’s suit be dismissed for being frivolous and unmeritorious.