By Nathan Nwakamma
A Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, on Friday, fixed Nov. 4 for commencement of hearing in a suit filed by Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri challenging the governorship primaries conducted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Sept. 4.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Lokpobiri had approached the court, challenging the emergence of Mr David Lyon as the APC governorship candidate in the state.
He sought for an order of the court to abridge the mandatory period for respondents in the suit from 21 day to seven days, and for an accelerated hearing of the case.
Listed as respondents in the case are the APC, Lyon and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Lokpobiri had claimed that he won the Sept. 4 governorship primaries conducted by the APC, using the direct primary mode.
Counsel to Lokpobiri , Mr F. B. Olorogun, had in his argument on the motion on notice, urged the court to expedite the hearing, as the governorship election , which was central to the litigation, had been scheduled for Nov. 16.
However, Counsel to APC, Mr Sydney Ibanichuka, submitted that although the election had been fixed, the respondents were entitled to exhausting the 21-day time window allowed by the rules of the court to respond to the plaintiff’s claims.
Ruling on the motion, Justice Jane Inyang noted that although time was of essence in the substantive case, the principle of fair hearing demanded that the respondents be given reasonable time within her discretion to respond.
Inyang, therefore, abridged the 21-day time frame for the respondents to file response to 14 days and adjourned till Nov 4 for hearing.
“In view of all the circumstances and the time frame, I have, in the exercise of my discretionary powers to abridge the time required for parties to respond to motions and applications, which must be judiciously exercised, abridged the time to 14 days.
“I have also resolved that all pending motions will be consolidated and dealt with and that the substantive suit will be death with.
“So the next adjourned date is a day of reckoning,” Inyang said.
NAN reports that the aspirants, who participated in the Sept 4 APC governorship primaries in the state, included Lokpobiri, Aganaba Steven, Ebitimi Amgbare, Diseye Poweigha, David Lyon and Ongoebi Etebu.
NAN also reports that a former Cross River Resident Electoral Commissioner, Briyai Frankland, was disqualified.