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FHC quashes Kashamu’s suit seeking to stop PDP’s sanction

The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, struck out a suit filed by the Senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District, Buruji Kashamu, to stop the Peoples Democratic Party from taking any disciplinary action against him.

Delivering judgment, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba declined jurisdiction to hear the case on merit and struck it out after upholding PDP’s preliminary objection challenging the suit’s competence and validity.

The judge described the suit as hasty, premature and inappropriate for the purpose it sought to achieve.

Kashamu had, on September 18, 2017, through his lawyer, Mr. Raphael Oluyede, filed the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/866/2017, faulting all disciplinary steps, including his referral to the Chief Tom Ikimi-led Disciplinary Committee of the party and the query dated September 7, 2017 issued to him by the party.

He contended that the disciplinary actions were in violation of the judgment of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, in suit FHC/L/CS/605/2016, and also the order of Justice Babatunde Quadri of the Abuja Division of the court made in suit FHC/ABJ/CS/732/2017 on September 5, 2017.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, the PDP and the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee were the first to the third respondents to the suit.

The fourth to the sixth respondents were the Chairman of the PDP Disciplinary Committee, Ikimi; Makarfi; and another member of the Makarfi-led caretaker committee of the party, Senator Ben Obi.

But Justice Dimgba, in upholding the preliminary objection, argued by the PDP’s lawyer, Mr. Edidiong Usungurua of Kanu Agabi (SAN)’s law firm, struck out the disciplinary committee’s name as a defendant not being a juristic person (not a body that can sue or be sued).

The judge also agreed with the PDP’s lawyer that the entire suit was hasty and premature being one founded on interlocutory orders made on August 10 and September 5, 2017, in another ongoing case marked FHC/ABJ/CS/732/2017.

Justice Dimgba held that the fresh suit by Kashamu was not the appropriate approach to enforcing the court orders which the senator claimed to have been violated by the PDP’s steps of referring him to a disciplinary committee of the party and issuing him a query dated September 7, 2017.

He noted that the option open to any person alleging a violation of a court order was to file contempt proceedings and not to commence an entirely fresh suit for the enforcement of the orders said to have been violated.

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The judge added that granting the prayers sought in the senator’s fresh suit could lead to “absurdities” that would ridicule the integrity of the judiciary and the image of the institution.

Justice Dimgba added, “The absurdity that comes out is to be seen by imagining a situation where, for example, this court were to give judgment today, granting the relief the plaintiff is asking for on the basis of the order of Quadri J. (Justice Babatunde Quadri also of the Abuja Division of FHC) and myself in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/732/2017, and then tomorrow, for whatever reason, the court in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/732/2017 revokes its orders of September 7, 2017 and 10/08/17, respectively.

“What it will then mean is that by tomorrow, the court’s judgment of today, disposing of the rights of the parties finally and completely, will be having no legs upon which it will be standing since its foundation has been taken away.

“The court must avoid creating such an outcome that ridicules its integrity and the image of the institution.

“The best way will be to hold, as I am inclined to do, that this suit, apart from having been wrongly brought as a new suit instead of committal proceedings, is premature save and until Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/732/2017 is finally disposed of.”

Noting that Kashamu was not a party to the original suit, the judge said the senator ought to have applied to be joined in the said suit as a co-plaintiff and after being joined, and the plaintiffs all together could then apply to the court to affirm the orders said to have been made on September 7, 2017.

He added that filing a fresh suit by Kashamu would not only amount to a mere multiplicity of suits, but could also give rise to endless chain of actions that might be subsequently filed in court to enforce the orders made in each preceding suit.

He noted that “there is no guarantee that the pronouncements, which the court can make in this suit in favour of the plaintiff, might not also be flouted by the defendants.”

The judge added, “Does it then mean that if this were to happen, the plaintiff will also institute yet another suit in order to redress such disobedience were it to occur?

“The point I make is that allowing this suit to proceed will set us on a course of an endless and interminable trajectory, the prediction of whose ultimate stop will be the diet of the mystics.”

Although, other grounds of objection raised by the PDP were dismissed by Justice Dimgba, the judge considered the only one sustained to be strong enough to terminate the senator’s case.

For instance, the court agreed with Kashamu’s lawyer, Mr. Raphael Oluyede, that contrary to the PDP’s contention, the senator’s suit did not constitute an issue that ought to have been submitted to the party’s internal mechanism of dispute resolution.

The judge also agreed with Oluyede that the suit was properly commenced by means of an originating summons and that the plaintiff had the locus standi to file the suit.

The judge also agreed with the plaintiff that by not joining the Vice-Chairman of the PDP (South-West), Chief Eddy Olafeso, as a defendant in the suit did not render the suit incompetent.

Kashamu had filed the suit following the query dated September 7 issued against him over his activities in the South-West zone of the party.

He stated in the affidavit filed in support of the suit that the PDP queried him and some other prominent leaders of the party in the South-West zone for encouraging “aggrieved members of the party to approach the court to enforce their rights.”

PUNCH

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