Law

APC: Dilemma of party bogged down in litigation

AKEEM NAFIU writes on the myriads of court cases plaguing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) which has not only put the party’s fortune in jeopardy but also made it a mockery of opposition

 

T

hese are not the best of times for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

 

Reason: The party is currently enmeshed in a series of cases instituted by aggrieved members in various courts across the country.

 

 

The court cases which mostly touched on disputes over positions of authority have further heightened the crisis rocking the party.

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari had expressed deep concern over APC’s raging crisis, saying the issues confronting the party were such that should worry every member.

 

 

Speaking at a virtual NEC meeting of the party held Thursday last week at the Presidential Villa, the president advised APC members to withdraw all pending litigations against one another and settle for internal conciliation.

 

 

While warning that mutating disagreements would lead to self-destruction with dire consequences, President Buhari said the gains of the party would be reversed if the conflicts were allowed to overshadow the primary objective of service to the people.

 

 

He said: “The issues currently confronting our party at this time are such that should worry every party member. At the moment, our great party is faced with internal wrangling; there are on-going litigations amongst some party members and we cannot clearly ascertain the status of certain National Working Committee (NWC) members.

 

 

“There are also other associated disputes as to the legitimacy or otherwise of holders of certain national offices of the party. The party is also contending with judicial claims and counter-claims, orders and counter-orders and indeed judgements and counter-judgements that are predominantly at cross-purposes.

 

 

“Confronted with these issues, it is obvious that the fortunes of the party are currently, in jeopardy, administration of our party is becoming impossible and there is consequently an urgent need for intervention to immediately arrest further drifts and internal wrangling which may lead to total disintegration”.

 

 

The president while reiterating the need to discontinue all litigations involving members of the party added that “it must be made a resolution of the party which must be effectively enforced with dire consequences for members who choose to ignore the directive.”

 

 

However, the coming days may witness a swell in the number of court cases plaguing APC as majority members of the National Working Committee (NWC) who were not part of the virtual meeting had rejected its outcome.

 

 

In a statement, the Hilliard Eta-led 18 members of the NWC said the meeting violated the party’s constitution. They also announced their readiness to challenge the NEC meeting and its outcome in court.

 

 

Should the NWC members make good their threat of going to court, the case will be an addition to the existing ones.

 

 

Oshiomhole’s suspension cases

 

 

Although the erstwhile APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had the weekend withdrawn his case against the party at the Supreme Court, the party was thrown into a fresh leadership crisis when the Court of Appeal upheld Oshiomhole’s suspension as the party’s national chairman.

 

 

On 16th June, 2020, the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, affirmed the suspension of Adam’s Oshiomhole as National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by his ward.

 

 

A 3-man panel of Justice at the Appellate Court unanimously held that Oshiomhole’s appeal against his suspension lacked merit.

 

 

In the lead judgement delivered by Justice Mohammed Lamido, the court upheld the verdict of Justice Danlami Senchi of an Abuja High Court suspending Oshiomhole.

 

 

Justice Lamido said Oshiomhole’s appeal against his suspension is unmeritorious because the respondents had the right to approach the court to seek an injunctive order against his continued stay in office.

 

 

The appellate court said it was satisfied that the appellant was not denied fair hearing by the lower court.

 

 

It further affirmed the decision of the lower court to dismiss a preliminary objection raised by Oshiomhole against the suit, adding that the Abuja court had the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the case.

 

 

Oshiomhole had lodged an appeal against the ruling of Justice Senchi of an Abuja High Court which order his suspension as APC’s National Chairman.

 

 

APC National Vice Chairman (North-East), Comrade Mustapha Saliu; APC Edo State Chairman, Anselm Ojezua; Alhaji Sani Gomna, Mr. Oshawo Stephen, Hon. Fani Wabulari, Evangelist Princewill Ejogharado, Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Services were joined as 1st to 8th respondents respectively in the appeal.

 

 

In one of the four grounds of his appeal, Oshiomhole is contending that the trial judge erred in law and arrived at a wrong conclusion which occasioned a miscarriage of justice when, at the interlocutory stage, it decided that question that the appellant (Oshiomhole) in the performance of his duties as National Chairman of the 2nd appellant (APC) would interfere with the 1st – 6th respondents’ membership rights of the 2nd appellant.

 

 

Abuja and Kano cases

 

 

An Abuja High Court had on 4th March, 2020, ordered the temporary suspension of Oshiomhole as APC National Chairman, pending the determination of a suit pending before it.

 

 

Justice Danlami Senchi ordered Oshiomhole to stop parading himself as National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) pending the final determination of a suit filed by the party’s National Vice Chairman (North-East), Comrade Mustapha Saliu and five others.

 

Saliu and others have filed an application of interlocutory injunction asking the court to suspend Oshiomhole, having been suspended as a member of the APC from his Etsako Ward 10 in Edo State.

 

 

The plaintiffs, in the application filed on January 16, 2020 and argued by their lawyer, Oluwole Afolabi, urged the court to declare Oshiomhole’s continued stay in office illegal having been suspended from the APC.

 

 

Arguing the application marked, M/4292/2020, the lawyer told the court that having failed to challenge his suspension from the party in court, Oshiomhole’s rights as a member is currently abated and he cannot continue to act as chairman of the party.

 

 

After listening to Afolabi’s submissions, Justice Senchi granted the interlocutory order as prayed.

 

 

Kano’s court’s counter order

 

 

Less than 24 hours after the verdict by the Abuja High Court, a Federal High Court in Kano presided over by Justice A. Lewis-Allagoa, returned Oshiomhole to office. The court set aside the earlier ruling which suspended Oshiomhole from office.

The judge restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from dealing, communicating or howsoever recognising any person other than Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the APC for any party business or carrying out duties vested on the commission by the Electoral Act.

 

 

 

The order was sequel to a suit filed by one, Aliyu Muhammad Rabiu, to challenge the resolution of the Executive members of Ward 10, Etsako West Local Government Area of November 2, 2019 suspending Oshiomhole as a member of the APC.

 

 

The APC, Oshiomhole, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and Director General, Department of State Services (DSS) were joined as 1st to 5th defendants respectively in the suit.

 

 

Rabiu had on March 4, 2020, filed a motion ex-parte against the defendants seeking the court’s order stopping them from giving effect to the resolution.

 

 

In granting the motion, Justice Lewis-Allagoa held: “All the parties to this suit are directed to maintain the status quo ante bellum pending the hearing and disposal of the motion on notice filed herein. That is, an order directing the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants either by themselves, servants, privies, assigns or any officer howsoever described and whatever name called from giving effect to the purported resolution of the Ward 10, Etsako West Local Government Area of 2nd November, 2019 suspending the 2nd defendant (Oshiomhole) as a member of the 1st defendant (APC) pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

 

 

“Also that the 3rd defendant (INEC) is restrained from dealing, communicating or howsoever recognizing any person other than the 2nd defendant (Oshiomhole) as the National Chairman of the 1st defendant (APC) for any party business or carrying out any duties vested on the commission by the Electoral Act.

 

 

“Furthermore that the time the defendants in this suit shall enter appearance and file their processes in defence of this suit is abridged to seven (7) days.”

 

 

Litigation over APC’s chair

 

 

Following the vacuum created by the suspension of Adams Oshiomhole, two chieftains of the APC in Rivers State filed an ex-parte application before Justice Florence Fiberesima of a Port Harcourt High Court to restrain Chief Victor Giadom from parading himself as the Acting National Chairman and a member of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC.

 

 

Giadom, APC’s Deputy National Secretary, is one of the three members of the National Working Committee of APC laying claim to the chairmanship of the party following Oshiomhole’s suspension.

 

 

He is relying on an order of Justice S.U. Bature of an FCT High Court permitting him to act as APC’s National Chairman when Oshiomhole was earlier suspended.

 

 

Dissatisfied, the two Rivers APC chieftains, Dele Moses and Azunda Awori, in an application filed through their lawyer, F.C. Nwafor, seek court’s injunction to restrain Giadom from parading himself as either APC’s Acting National Chairman or Deputy National Secretary.

 

 

The APC, Caretaker Committee Chairman of Rivers APC, Igo Aguma, as well as APC’s National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala, were joined as co-respondents in the suit.

 

 

After listening to arguments from applicants’ lawyer, Justice Fiberesima granted an interim injunction restraining Giadom from acting by himself or through his privies or agents howsoever described from parading himself as the National Chairman of the APC or member of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) pending the determination of the motion on notice which is scheduled for hearing on July 1.

 

 

The judge also restrained Giadom from “issuing, signing or endorsing any document to the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or any other body or institution in the capacity of acting national chairman” of APC or as an officer of the party in any capacity pending the determination of the matter.

 

 

In the motion on notice, the applicants argued that Giadom has no legal basis to lay claim to the chairmanship position as he had resigned his position as a member of the NWC of the APC to contest the 2019 election as deputy governor on the platform of the party.

 

 

They are consequently seeking the following declarations among others;

 

 

“A declaration that sequel to the resignation of the 3rd defendant (Hon Victor Giadom) as Deputy National Secretary of the 1st Defendant (APC) in 2018, for the purposes of contesting in the 2019 general election as Deputy Governor of Rivers State, the 3rd defendant is no longer the Deputy National Secretary of the 1st Defendant and is not a member of National Working Committee ( NWC) of the 1st Defendant having resigned his membership of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the 1st defendant for purposes of contesting in the 2019 general election as the Deputy Governor of Rivers State.

 

 

“A declaration that the resignation of the 3rd defendant, Victor Giadom, as the Deputy National Secretary of the 1st defendant in 2018, is valid and effective from 2018 till date.

 

 

“A declaration that the 3rd defendant (Hon Victor Giadom) is not the National Chairman, or Acting National Chairman, or Deputy National Secretary or otherwise howsoever a member of the National Working Committee of the 1st defendant.

 

 

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th defendants from recognising or regarding the 3rd Defendant as either a member of the National Working Committee (NWC), the Deputy National Secretary, National Chairman or Acting National Chairman of the 1st Defendant.”

 

 

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