Bayelsa Judge withdraws from expelled APC chair’s case

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Simon Utebor

The presiding judge of Bayelsa State High Court, Ogbia Division, Justice Raphael Ajuwa, has washed his hands off the case brought before the court by Tiwei Orunimighe, the expelled Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in the state.

Orunimighe had dragged the Acting Chairman of the state APC, Joseph Fafi; a former governor, Timipre Sylva, and 18 others before the court in Yenagoa, the state capital, over his expulsion from the party on alleged anti-party activities.

Orunimighe, in a suit number OHC/18/2017, sought an order of the court declaring his removal as illegal, null and void. He also prayed the court to order his reinstatement as substantive chairman of the APC in the state.

But Justice Ajuwa in his ruling, said his decision to withdraw from the case was based on the objection of the respondents in a letter to the State Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri.

Fafi, who is the first respondent in the case, had in the letter to the state’s Chief Judge, through the Registrar of the court and served on all counsel, sought the transfer of the case over alleged ‘’undercutting’’ of the power of the CJ.

Fafi claimed that the CJ had assigned suits by filing the present suit directly at the Ogbia Division of the state High Court, consequently imposing on the respondents their choice of a judge to handle the instant suit.

The acting chairman, in his application for transfer of the matter, decried in very strong terms, the claimant’s conduct (through his lawyers Somina Johnbull and Amadise Ekadi), a situation he claimed was ‘’extremely uncomfortable.’’

The matter, which came up for hearing on Thursday, could not go on despite readiness of counsel for both sides to argue the suit in view of the pending preliminary objection filed by respondents’ lawyers bordering on jurisdiction and sundry issues.

Lawyers for the respondents — D. D. Fiderikumo and Sydney Ibanichuka — drew the presiding judge’s attention to a letter written by Fafi.

Ajuwa, after confirming that the counsel for both sides were present and served with the letter for transfer, asked them if such a letter for transfer could act as a stay of proceedings in the matter pending a response from the CJ.

After hearing arguments from both sides, Ajuwa withdrew from the case with an order that the case file be returned to the Chief Judge to be reassigned to another court.

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