Law News
Judge Declines Jurisdiction in Suit Challenging PDP’s Zoning Policy


An Abuja High Court has declined jurisdiction to hear a suit  seeking to declare unconstitutional the zoning policy of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Justice A.S. Umar, in a ruling yesterday, declined jurisdiction on the grounds  that his court lacked the territorial integrity to hear the case.

The judge’s ruling was on the preliminary objection by the party against the suit marked: CV/1471/2014, filed by a lawyer and a governorship aspirant of the party in Akwa-Ibom State, Leo Ekpenyong.

Justice Umar upheld the argument by the respondent that the suit ought to be instituted in Akwa-Ibom and not Abuja.

But Ekpeyong said he would  appeal the ruling. He contended  that the judge erred in his decision because “we did not sue the Akwa-Ibom chapter of PDP. We sued the national body and challenged the zoning policy contained in its constitution. The Akwa-Ibom branch did not create the policy, it was a creation of the national PDP, which its state branches have adopted.”

The plaintiff had contended in the suit,  that the policy, contained in the PDP’s constitution was not only discriminatory, but negated the constitutional provision for the right of every citizen to contest election without being discriminated against regardless of his place of birth.

He stated, in a supporting affidavit, that the suit was informed by a recent publication by the Akwa-Ibom chapter of the party, in a newspaper indicating that it had zoned the governorship position to Eket senatorial district of the state.
Ekpenyong said he was a member of the PDP, an indigene of Akwa-Ibom State, from Etinan Local Government, in Uyo senatorial district.

He contended that the party, by the publication, which it said formed the communique from its state’s executive committee meeting of April 22 was determined to discriminate against him and frustrate him in his aspiration for the governorship position.

He stated that, the party’s indication that its decision to zone the position to Eket senatorial district did not preclude other aspirants from other districts from pursuing the aspirations, was insufficient to assuage the disadvantage the party’s publication has placed his aspiration in the context of the state’ governorship primary election.

The plaintiff had urged the court to decide whether he or any other aspirant to the governorship position in Akwa-Ibom State could be excluded from contesting the party’s forthcoming primary elections or placed at ant disadvantage on account of his Senatorial District, Local Government or ethnicity.

He also asked the court to decide whether the resolution of the Akwa-Ibom State chapter of the party was not unconstitutional, null and void.

In resolving the questions, the plaintiff wanted the court to declare that he or any aspirant to the governorship position in the state could not be excluded from the primary elections or placed at any disadvantage on account of his senatorial district, local government or ethnicity.

He also sought a declaration that the Akwa-Ibom PDP’s resolution, published in the newspaper on April 24 is unconstitutional, null and void.

Ekpenyong argued that the fact that the zoning policy was contained in the PDP’s constitution, was unhelpful to the position taken by the PDP in Akwa-Ibom because such policy violates the provisions of sections 14(2) (a), 15(2), 42(2), 42 (2) of the country’s Constitution and Section 87 of the Electoral Act.

He contended that in view of the various constitutional provisions against discriminatory practices by political parties, the PDP in Akwa-Ibom State or any other party “has no choice but to maintain the principle of equality of opportunity for all aspirants regardless of where he comes from in the state.”

The plaintiff noted that the PDP constitution did not recognise bodies like “Town Hall meetings, the Body of Chapter Chairmen, the Body of Local Government Chairmen/Vice Chairmen,” among others, listed as having endorsed the communique published by the party in Akwa Ibom.

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