All is not well with Umo Eno, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate in Akwa Ibom State.
Mr. Eno is facing a perjury charge brought against him by Akan Okon, a former governorship aspirant in the state.
Even after a Federal High Court dismissed the suit and awarded him damages late last year, Mr. Okon appealed the decision to the Appeal Court.
Apparently, to stave off a possible negative outcome from the higher court, Mr. Usoro had approached the Supreme Court on behalf of the PDP, urging it to dismiss the panel hearing the suit against Mr. Eno.
The Appeal Court barred Mr. Eno’s counsel from filing on December 24, 2022, citing a violation of the Election Judicial Practice Direction, 2022.
But Mr. Usoro, in his petition, among other things, asked the Supreme Court to grant his client a departure from the Election Judicial Practice Direction, 2022 and extend the time for filing briefs based on Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, Cap S15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004;
He also asked the court to order the re-hearing of the appeal by the lower court before a fresh and different panel.
In an unexpected twist, the PDP’s National Working Committee (NWC) has disowned Mr. Usoro, stating that he did not obtain its approval to act on its behalf.
This came barely a few days after the GuardPost exclusively reported on the case before the Supreme Court.
The matter had become a major subject of concern so much, so the NWC met and issued a strong statement decrying Mr. Usoro’s action.
A statement signed by Debo Ologunagba, the PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, stated that the party opposed legal practitioners representing, and filing processes on its behalf without its knowledge and consent.
The party said the practice is not only bizarre, but also inexplicable, unjustifiable and completely unacceptable as it raises serious ethical issues bordering on professional misconduct.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the NWC states that Article 42 of the PDP’s constitution (as amended in 20170 places the exclusive responsibility of conducting litigation, prosecution, and defense of cases on behalf of the party including its organs and officials on the national legal adviser of the party.
“Under the PDP constitution, nobody, authority, office or organ other than the National Legal Adviser has the competence to engage external solicitors to handle cases on behalf of the party.
“Consequently, nobody, authority, office or organ other than the national legal adviser can engage external solicitors to handle cases on behalf of the party.
“Against this backdrop, the NWC reiterates that the engagement of external solicitors to handle cases on behalf of the party must be in writing under the hand of the national legal adviser specifying amongst other things, the nature of the case and other terms and conditions of the engagement,” the statement read.
The NWC, however, appealed to party members as well as legal practitioners to be well guided, adding that it would not hesitate to take stringent measures against offenders.
GuardPost Nigeria had reached out to Mr. Usoro to seek his comment against the PDP’s statement, but he declined.
“I can’t speak on something I don’t know. I don’t know of any such instance, so, I am not in a position to speak on it.”
But when reminded that he is representing the PDP in the appeal filed at the Supreme Court in the case between Mr. Eno and Okon, he said, “There are two things here. One is that I don’t talk about my matters with the press. Number two is that what you are talking about is purely speculative.
“If I had information about any specific matter and I have knowledge about what they are talking about I would comment on it.
“I don’t know what motivated the statement. I don’t know what they are talking about. So, I cannot comment on it. But generally, I don’t even talk about my matter in the press,” Mr. Usoro said.
Attempts to speak with the PDP’s National Legal Adviser, Kamaldeen Ajibade, were unsuccessful as he would neither pick calls nor respond to messages sent via his verified telephone number.
However, the PDP’s national spokesperson, Mr. Ologunagba would not say whether the statement was targeted the crisis in Akwa Ibom state branch of the party.
“The NWC has made its position on the matter known and in very strong terms. I am not in a position to speak on whether it was about what happened in Akwa Ibom. You can call the national legal adviser to speak about it,” said Mr. Ologunagba.
When informed that Mr. Ajibade had not picked up, returned, or responded to messages left on his phone, he advised our correspondent to speak with the party’s legal adviser in Akwa Ibom State.
Speaking on the issue, the legal adviser, Akpadiaha Ebitu confirmed that the PDP was not a part of the case in the Supreme Court.
The following conversation ensued:
“Have you seen the court papers,” asked Mr. Ebitu.
“Yes, we saw the papers filed at the Supreme Court and signed by Paul Usoro, SAN,” GuardPost replied.
“So, what do you want me to say? My name is not there, and I am not a party to the case. The National legal adviser must have told you that we are not part of the case.
“You can go and ask Paul Usoro who briefed him to file the case since my name is not there,” Mr. Ebitu advised.