Sowore suffers setback in his bid to get included in the January 19 presidential debate

ALL ACTION Congress (AAC) aspirant Omoyele Sowore has suffered a setback in his quest to participate in this month's presidential debate after an Abuja high court refused to declare his exclusion from the televised discussion illegal.


Mr Sowore, 47, is running for president in next month's elections but had been excluded from the January 19 presidential debates taking place at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja. debate organisers the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), only shortlisted five candidates to participate in it and Mr Sowore was excluded despite opinion polls showing him as running third in the race.


Challenging the decision as an act of political victimisation, Mr Sowore and the AAC challenged the action in court but yesterday, an Abuja federal high court postponed ruling in the suit. In his ruling, Justice Danlami Senchi excused himself from the suit and referred the case file to the chief judge for reassignment, hearing and determination.


At the resumed hearing of the case in Abuja, the judge said his role as vacation judge had ended. At the hearing, the counsel to the plaintiffs, Barrister Inibehe Effiong, had approached the court to withdraw and discontinue the action against the third defendant, BON chairman John Momoh, on the grounds that he could not be reached for service.


He said the matter could go on without the third defendant, adding that the first and second defendants were duly served. He quoted order 24, rules 1 and 2 of the court, which allows the plaintiff/claimant to withdraw an action in part or whole against the defendant since the service has not been effected.


Counsel to the third defendant, Onyekachi Omah, submitted that he did not oppose the application for discontinuation of action but demanded N1m as cost of action against the plaintiff. He claimed that the third defendant was only served last Friday, noting that the service was defective.


Mr Sowore, who was in court with his running mate Dr Rabiu Rufai, said the self-withdrawal of Justice Senchi from case, stated that it was postponed to settle some legal technicalities. He added:  “After an intense day consisting two court sessions where the defendants tried every trick in the book to delay and postpone the case, the judge finally ruled for the case to be postponed to settle some legal technicalities.


“The case will be assigned to a different judge and the new date will be announced shortly after full legal procedures have been met. The AAC has always demanded to know why we were excluded from this debate as it is inconceivable that a debate stage will hold five presidential candidates and the most persuasive voice of the nation, the AAC, is not included.


“Several phone calls to Eddie Emesiri, the NEDG executive secretary, has not yielded a conclusive response, choosing instead to hurl insults and allegations at the party and its founder. We have never thought the road to freedom would be easy and we are well aware that those who have gained from the rot and decay of Nigeria would not take lightly to our demands for freedom."