The Court of Appeal, Benin Judicial Division, has overturned the July 13, 2020 decision of the Federal High Court, Benin which ruled against the relocation of the secretariat of the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from No. 51, Airport Road, Benin City to No. 18, Ighiwiyisi Street, off Airport Road, Benin City.
The appellate court on Wednesday ruled that the issue of change of office address was the domestic affair of a political party, and that the court had no jurisdiction whatsoever to interfere or decide for a political party where to locate or relocate its office or party Secretariat to.
Recall that a former deputy state chairman of the APC, Kenneth Asekhome, who had been expelled from the party June 13, 2020 for allegedly filing numerous frivolous petitions against the party, had dragged the party to court over the relocation of its secretariat, which had the backing of its parent body.
Asekhome had pleaded amongst others, that sensitive information regarding the then imminent governorship election might be lost if the relocation was allowed. His prayer was upheld by the court. But dissatisfied with the judgment, the APC, through its Counsel, Ehiogie West-Idahosa, leading Douglas Ogbankwa, Famous Osawaru, and others, approached the appellate court. The appeal, which was however argued by Anderson Asemota, whom the Court of Appeal commended for his industry, and in raising recondite and novel issues of Law, succeeded.
The Court, in resolving the issues for determination, held that the issue of location or relocation of a political party Secretariat, dovetails into the domestic prism of the political party and the court has no jurisdiction whatsoever to interfere or decide for a political party where to locate or relocate its office or party Secretariat to.
Validating Asekhome’s expulsion from the APC, the court held that having been expelled from the party, he had no locus standi to institute the action against the party as only valid members of a political party can question a decision governing its internal affairs. Besides, the Court of Appeal further held that the action was a pre-election matter and so statute barred as it was not filed within the 14 days constitutional threshold, as provided in Section 285 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended ) by the 4th Alteration.
Consequently, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and set aside the decision of the Federal High Court.