Justice Jane Iyang of the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state capital, has declined the application by local government and adhoc delegates of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who voted in the disputed September 4 governorship primaries of the party for a delay in the hearing in the suit filed by the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe against the party, its flag bearer, Senator Douye Diri.
Justice Iyang also refused to vacate the earlier order for substituted service on the defendants but set aside the order abridging the time for response to service, thereby fixing October 18th for hearing on the suit.
At the resumed hearing on Monday, Barr. Chuks Ogiwo, counsel to the local government chairmen, their vice-chairmen, councilors and adhoc delegates in the disputed governorship primaries, known as the 4th and 5th defendants, applied orally to the court seeking that the order on substituted service be vacated as they have not been served.
They also requested that a time frame of between 30days and 42 days be granted for the defendants, as provided in the section 36 of the constitution as amended to allow for sufficient response to the notice that had not been served them by the plaintiff.
Justice Jane Iyang, who stood down to consider her ruling on the matter, was, however, told by counsels to the plaintiff and defendants on the agreement on 18th of October, 2019 for commencement of hearing.
Barrister Somina Johnbull, the counsel to Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, told newsmen after court proceedings, that the court only heard the counsels on report on service and that three out of five have been properly served, ‘for the purpose of fair hearing, those without response have been given more time.’
.’When the court stood down to consider ruling, the counsels agreed on 18th October,2019. The whole preliminary process is to ensure that there is no obstacle in the speedy hearing of the case. The court did not vacate the order of substantive service. It only set aside order abridging time. They stand nothing to benefit because most of them have been served and they complied.’
In his opinion, Barrister Chuks Oguwo said the issue in court was based on last week decision by the plaintiff, Chief Timi Alaibe, to secure an order of substituted service without the knowledge of the defendants.
According to him, “Sometimes last week, behind our back as we have not been served, the plaintiff obtained an order that all be served through substantive service and also that our time of responding to the claim of the plaintiff, which overwhelmingly should be 30 days or 42 days depending on method used ,was abridged to five days including Saturday and Sunday.’
‘In these five days, we were put under immense pressure to respond contrary to the provision of section 36 of the constitution as amended. All the defense counsels applied orally and that the order be vacated so that the defendants will have sufficient time to respond to the case brought against them.’
‘The court, to the glory of God, displayed judicial activism and agreed with the submission of the defendant counsels and set aside the order. The implication is that the defendants are no longer under immense pressure to do their work. We would now go home to work on our response. We are not afraid, we are ready to meet them in court.’