•Appeal Court halts execution of suspension order
•High court approves Giadom as acting chairman
•Why APC postponed NEC meeting
•Govs at loggerheads over legal requirements
•Anger in anti-Oshiomhole’s camp; lawyers divided
•Giadom unfit to sit in NWC, say Omo-Agege, others
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Omeiza Ajayi
THE Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, yesterday, gave the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, a life line to remain as leader of the party, as it ordered stay of execution of the Abuja High Court ruling that suspended him as the national chairman of the APC.
Meanwhile, in a twist of event, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, presided over by Justice S.U Bature, yesterday, granted a motion ex-parte, praying it to allow acting National Secretary of APC, Chief Victor Giadom, to pilot the affairs of the party as acting National Chairman.
In essence, the ruling party is saddled with the issue of two chairmen backed by the courts. Both matters will come up on March 19 and 20, respectively.
The appellate court, in a ruling by a three-man panel of Justices led by Justice Yahaya Dattijo, also issued an interlocutory injunction restraining the Respondents from taking steps to give effect to the High Court ruling, pending the determination of appeals Oshiomhole filed before it.
It subsequently fixed Thursday (March 19) to hear the two appeals marked CA/A/187/2020 and CA/A/188/2020.
The order of the appellate court followed an ex-parte application Oshiomhole filed through his team of lawyers, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN.
NEC meeting postponed
Entrenched forces in the APC, who wanted to remove the embattled APC chairman, cannot do so for now. Reason: The controversial National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting where they would have carried out their plan has been postponed indefinitely, following disagreement among APC governors on the constitutionality or otherwise of the said meeting.
President Muhammadu Buhari sanctioned the indefinite postponement of the NEC meeting because of the disagreement among the APC governors.
While some governors who are opposed to having Comrade Oshiomhole remain in office as national chairman wanted the meeting to go on as planned, some of their colleagues who are aligned with Oshiomhole vehemently rejected the move.
Earlier on Sunday night, the South South leader of the party and Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, had met with NEC members from the zone and resolved to boycott the meeting, and urged other NEC members to also stay away.
Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and his counterparts from Borno and Ogun, Prof. Babagana Zulum and Dapo Abiodun, had led a counter attack on the Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, threatening to initiate impeachment proceedings against him for allegedly using the Forum to fight a personal battle against Oshiomhole.
At a meeting of the APC Governors Forum, yesterday in Abuja, Vanguard gathered that the three governors were decisive in their resolve to remove Governor Bagudu as chairman of the Forum.
President Buhari had been slated to meet with the governors yesterday afternoon. The governors had met to compare notes before the meeting with the President.
Vanguard learned that trouble started when one of the anti-Oshiomhole governors made reference to a communique that would be presented to the President.
“However, Governors. Uzodinma, Zulum and Abiodun questioned how, where and when the communique was drafted since the governors had not met on the matter earlier”, said a source who was privy to the meeting.
Speaking further, the Vanguard source said: “Bagudu had written a communique in the name of the PGF to the effect that they were rejecting Oshiomhole as chairman of the party. But Uzodinma, Zulum and Abiodun descended on him, accusing him of always writing statements and position papers on behalf of the governors without consultation and using same to misinform the President.”
On the March 17 NEC meeting, the pro-Oshiomhole governors were said to have vowed that the meeting would not go on as it was not properly convened.
How NEC meeting was postponed
The postponement was announced shortly after President Buhari held a closed door meeting with Progressives Governors Forum, PGF, which lasted about 15 minutes at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking with State House correspondents after the meeting, Chairman of PGF, and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, said that the APC governors had sought the President’s support to postpone the NEC meeting.
He said President Buhari was pleased to endorse the suggestion to postpone the NEC indefinitely.
His words: “We met with Mr. President, among other issues we discussed about the party and our appreciation to Mr. President how he has given access to each of us individually and collectively.
“Among the issues we discussed was the resolution that the governors have taken to work together to resolve all the issues in the party.
“And also we seek (sic) Mr. President’s support to postpone the National Executive Council meeting that is scheduled for tomorrow (today) until such a time that the governors are ready to report back.”
Asked whether the President accepted the postponement request, he said,” Yes, he is so happy that we all agreed to that.”
Those at the meeting were Dapo Abiodun, (Ogun), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Atiku Bagudu, (Kebbi), Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, (Gombe), Babagana Zullum (Borno), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), and Simon Lalong (Plateau).
Others were Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Aminu Masari (Katsina), Hope Uzodinma (Imo). Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano) and Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State.
Those absent were Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna, and Mai Mala Buni of Yobe.
We agree with President Buhari on NEC postponement — Giadom
Commenting on the postponement of the NEC meeting he scheduled for today Giadom said the APC is in agreement with the decision of President Buhari to postpone the gathering.
Giadom who had convened the meeting following the suspension of Oshiomhole disclosed this in a telephone chat with journalists.
He said: “The NEC meeting has been postponed indefinitely. At the appropriate time, the public and members of the NEC will be informed on the new date but as of today, we are in agreement with the president that the NEC meeting has been postponed.”
On reports in the social media stating that the meeting would go on, Giadom said: “That is the product of mischief makers; it did not come from me. Everybody has to respect the intervention of the President.”
Asked to react to an order of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court which yesterday granted him leave to pilot the affairs of the party as “acting National Chairman”, Giadom said; “I have not been served yet. I am talking to you as the acting National Secretary.”
How Omo-Agege, South-South APC worked against postponed NEC meeting
But for the postponement, APC leaders from the South-South would not have attended the meeting. Leader of the APC in the South-South and Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege had yesterday met with members of NEC from the zone and resolved to boycott the meeting.
While calling on others to also boycott the meeting, they argued that the convener, Chief Victor Giadom who is the acting national secretary of the party has no powers to call the meeting even as they said he was no longer fit to sit as a member of the National Working Committee, NWC.
Those who signed the communique issued after the meeting were Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; Deputy Leader, House of Representatives, Comrade Peter Akpatason; National Vice Chairman, South-South, Ntufam Hilliard Eta; Deputy National Legal Adviser, E.I Adoh-Ogbuta; and zonal Woman Leader, Dr Racheal Akpabio.
Others were the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena; zonal Youth Leader, Gabriel Idueseri; zonal ex-officio, Chief Kokote Ibadan; Akwa Ibom State Chairman, Ini Okopido and Israel Goli.
They said in a communique: “The National Chairman of our great Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has done very well in the administration of the affairs of our great Party. We cannot allow ourselves to be used as agents of destabilization of a party we have laboured so hard to build.
“Under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, we won the just concluded presidential elections, won majority of the seats in the National Assembly, and also won governorship elections in most states of the federation.
“That in line with the resolutions reached by the National Working Committee of our party, we dissociate ourselves from the purported NEC meeting being summoned by Victor Giadom as he does not have the constitutional powers to summon NEC meeting.’’
Anger in anti-Oshiomhole’s camp
There was anger in the anti-Oshiomhole camp yesterday following what some leaders of the group considered as a coup by the Rotimi Amaechi tendency.
The disagreement among the leaders is connected with who emerges as acting National Chairman of the party should they succeed in unseating Oshiomhole.
Some leaders of the group have reportedly accused the Transportation minister of working to install his man, Giadom as acting National Chairman.
Vanguard learned that the Ekiti tendency in the group which is led by Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi is favourably disposed to having the NEC approve its nomination of Sen. Gbenga Aluko as Deputy National Chairman, South, in which case he would act in the absence of Oshiomhole.
While some governors in the group were said to be rooting for a former Governor of Cross River State, Mr Clement Ebri, a few others are rooting for a former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba. Some of the northern governors in the group are, however, said to be canvassing for a former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari.
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The High Court on Giadom
The FCT High Court presided over by Justice S.U Bature granted an interim order allowing Chief Giadom to pilot the affairs of the party as acting national chairman.
The matter which was filed by the APC National Vice Chairman, North-East, Comrade Mustapha Salihu, has the party’s National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala; National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu; controversially-appointed acting National Secretary, Arc. Waziri Bulama and the APC as defendants.
Counsel to Salihu, O.C Ugwu had in the motion dated March 16, 2020 prayed for “an interim order of this Honourable Court allowing Chief Victor Giadom (present Acting National Secretary) to pilot the affairs of the 4th Defendant as Acting Chairman and to preside at all meetings of the National Executive Committee pending the decision of the National Executive Committee of the 4th Defendant fixed for 17th March, 2020 or any other subsequent adjourned date pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice”.
He also prayed for “an interim order of this Honourable Court restraining the 4th Defendant and its officers or anyone purporting to act as an officer of the 4th Defendant from preventing or in any way disturbing Chief Victor Giadom (present Acting National Secretary) from functioning as the Acting Chairman (unless otherwise decided by the National Executive Committee of the 4th Defendant) pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.’’
The court granted application and the case adjourned to March 20, 2020.
How Appeal Court saved Oshiomhole
Justice Yahaya who read the ruling, said there was need for the appellate court to intervene in the matter since there was plan to convene a NEC meeting of the party in Oshiomhole’s absence.
“We are of the view that an emergency picture has been painted so that the intervention of this court is warranted.
“There is an information of the meeting of the National Executive Council of the 2nd Applicant to be held tomorrow (Tuesday) and following the ruling of the lower court, the 1st Applicant will not be able to attend.
“If this happens, then there is no chance that the status quo ante-bellum can be maintained”, Justice Yahaya held.
He said the status quo could only be maintained if an order for the stay of execution of the March 4 ruling of the high court that suspended Oshiomhole, was made.
“We found merit in this application and we hereby order the stay of execution of the order in suit No FCT/HC/CV/837/2020, pending the determination of the motion on notice.
“We hereby give an order of injunction restraining the Respondents either by themselves, agents, privies or officers of the party, jointly or severally, from taking steps to effect the execution of the order of the high court.
“The appeal is hereby given accelerated hearing.
“But before I conclude this ruling, we want to implore political parties to always try to settle their differences amicably without this necessity of involving the court at all times”, Justice Yahaya added.
Oshiomhole had through his lawyer, pleaded the appellate court to intervene and abort what he described as plot by some persons to illegally push him out of office.
“My lords, there has been a state of disorderliness in the affairs of the 2nd Applicant (APC). There is a current move to hold the National Executive Council meeting of the party tomorrow without the 1st Applicant.
“My Lords there cannot be any reversal to the status quo ante bellum if that is allowed to happen. “In this kind of situation, there cannot be two masters in a ship. Section 192 of the Evidence Act enjoins your lordships to take judicial notice of what is going on.
“Your lordships can also see from the motion on notice and the grounds of appeal that the issues are very serious one and I want to submit Sirs that time is of the essence.
“We can guarantee that nobody is going to lose anything if this application is granted.
“To us my Lords tomorrow is like an eternity. We want this court to intervene. We want this court to say that for the time being, there should be a stay of action.
“There will be irreparable damages if this court does not intervene”, Olanipekun pleaded.
Though the six aggrieved members of the APC that secured the interim order that suspended Oshiomhole from office, were represented by their lawyer, Oluwole Afolabi, the appellate court panel, however said it would not grant them audience since Oshiomhole’s application was brought ex-parte.
Meanwhile, the appellate court adjourned till Friday to hear the two sets of appeal marked CA/A/187/2020 and CA/A/188/2020.
The appellate court had earlier on Monday, said it would hear the two appeals at a later date to be communicated to parties.
A three-man panel of Justices of the court led by Justice Stephen Adah, had after they concluded hearing on other appeals on the cause list, told Oshiomhole’s legal team that another panel would return to hear his case.
However, about five minutes after the Justice Adah-led panel retired to their chambers, a clerk of the appellate court came back and informed all the parties that they would be notified of the new hearing date.
Oshiomhole, who was visibly displeased with the development, stormed out of the court in the company of a handful of his supporters that included a governorship aspirant of the APC in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Meantime, about three hours later, the appellate court reconvened to hear Oshiomhole’s ex-parte application.
Justice Danlami Senchi of the FCT high court at Jabi had in a ruling on March 4, ordered Oshiomhole to stop parading himself as the National Chairman of the APC, pending the determination of a substantive suit that was brought against him by six aggrieved members of the party.
The plaintiffs, Mustapha Salihu, Anslem Ojezua, Alhaji Sani Gomna, Oshawo Steven, Hon. Fani Wabulari and Evang. Princewill Ejogharado, had in their suit, insisted that Oshiomhole had no right to continue to perform the duties of the National Chairman of the APC, having been suspended as a member of the party from his Etsako ward 10, in Edo State.
They argued that since his suspension remained extant, his rights as a member of the party had abated.
Though the court fixed April 7 to hear the substantive matter, it however agreed with the plaintiffs, noting that Oshiomhole failed to appeal against his suspension from the party.
Justice Senchi, held that the 2nd Respondent (APC), wrongfully retained Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the party in view of the affidavit evidence before the court.
Consequently, aside temporarily suspending him from office, the trial judge directed the party to stop acknowledging Oshiomhole as its National Chairman, adding that he should be denied access to the party’s Secretariat.
Owing to ruling of the high court, Oshiomhole, was unable to return to his office at the APC National Secretariat in Abuja.
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On the two orders, activist and lawyer, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, said: “What this means for APC is that it now has two National Chairmen, both backed by court orders.
“And if I may suggest, the party should just not carry out any activity as it can’t be headed by two chairmen, it’s not permitted in law. The party as it is now is headless.”
On his part, former Solicitor-General of Lagos State, Lawal Pedro, SAN, noted that in such situation, the Court of Appeal decision should naturally override the FCT High court.
“I believe that the orders of the Court of Appeal should take precedent to that of the High Court. The issues may be different but the parties are the same. There is no way a Sherriff of the court with a Court of Appeal order and that of a High Court, will choose to execute the High Court order. I also think the lawyers who filed the suit should be disciplined.”
NWC under threat over rash of litigation, vacancies
Meanwhile, the National Working Committee of the party has been hit with another litigation as a Sokoto High Court has restrained the Party from appointing or electing Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu or any other person into the NWC.
In a Motion Ex parte dated March 13, 2020 and filed before Justice Mohammed Mohammed, the plaintiff, Inuwa Abdulkadir who is the suspended National Vice Chairman of the APC, North-West zone sought an order of the court to restrain the APC from appointing Issa-Onilu into any substantive position.
Joined in the suit are the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Issa-Onilu is currently the National Publicity Secretary of the party, but Abdulkadir has been in court faulting the appointment which he said was not properly done.
He urged the court among others to grant “an order of interim injunction, restraining the defendants or any other organ of the 1st defendant from appointing or electing the 2nd defendant or any member of the 1st defendant in substantive capacity or whatsoever save and except through a National Convention in accordance with the Constitution of the 1st defendant pending the hearing and determination of motion on notice no SS/M. 106/2020 now pending before this court.
‘’An order of interim injunction, restraining the defendants or any other organ of the 1st defendant except the National Convention from appointing, electing or ratifying the appointment of the 2nd defendant or any member of the 1st defendant into the National Executive Committee except in compliance with the 1st defendant’s constitution as well as in accordance with the provision of section 233 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) pending the hearing and determination of motion on notice no SS/M. 106/2020 now before this court.”
In granting the prayers, the court ordered: “In view of the foregoing, it is my humble opinion that this application has merit and ought to be granted. Accordingly prayers 1 and 2 are hereby granted.”
The party is burdened with avalanche of suits. The National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is in court fighting for his position.
Then, there is the issue of Deputy National Chairman, North, Senator Lawal Shuaibu who was purportedly suspended from the party last year, and the National Vice Chairman, Northwest, Inuwa Abdulkadir, who is also on suspension.
This is in addition to the Deputy National Chairman, South, Otunba Niyi Adebayo who is now a cabinet minister, and the party’s National Auditor, Chief George Moghalu who is now the Managing Director, Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority NIWA, Lokoja.
The office of the National Secretary has also been vacant since its last occupant, Mai Mala Buni was elected governor of Yobe state.
In the midst of all these, the office of the Acting National Secretary of the party, Chief Victor Giadom is currently being threatened. Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Yekini Nabena, on Saturday disclosed how Giadom resigned his membership of the NWC to participate in the last governorship election in Rivers State as running mate to Tonye Cole.
Article 31(1)(iii) of the APC Constitution 2014 (as amended) states: “Any Party office holder interested in contesting for an elective office (whether party office or office in a general election) shall resign and leave office 30 days prior to the date of nomination or Party primary for the Office he or she is seeking to contest”.
Within the week, the office of the National Organizing Secretary, occupied by Emma Ibediro also came under attack from his own deputy, Mohammed Sani Ibrahim, who, relying on a September 14, 2018 judgement of the Federal High Court declared himself acting National Organizing Secretary. However, Ibediro who described Ibrahim as an impostor, said while the said judgement has been appealed, the appellant in the original suit, Senator Osita Izunaso had since defected to the All Progressives Grand