Court sacks Umeh, APGA NWC, voids 2011 National Convention
By TONY EDIKE, Enugu
THE entire National Working Committee, NWC of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA led by the party’s National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, was yesterday sacked by an Enugu State High Court presided over by the state Chief Judge, Justice Innocent Umezulike.
The court declared the February 10, 2011 election and the party’s national convention that produced the current members of the National Executive Committee as “unconstitutional, null and void” just as at it restrained Chief Umeh from parading himself as the National Chairman of the party henceforth.
To fill the vacuum created by the judgment, Justice Umezulike directed the NEC of the party, which has been dissolved by the order, to meet and fix a date for the election of new NEC members to pilot the affairs of the party.
Justice Umezulike, who made these orders while delivering judgment in the suit filed by an expelled member of the party in Enugu State, Mr. Jude Okuli, held that the tenure of Umeh and his executive came to a legitimate end on December 2, 2010, adding that since the party failed to conduct a valid election that could have produced another executive, the party is deemed not to have a valid executive in place since the expiration of the tenure of that executive.
He resolved all the seven issues set out for determination by the plaintiff (Okuli) in his favour saying the party leadership under Umeh did not comply with Section 18 of its constitution in the conduct of the February 10, 2011 election while agreeing with the plaintiff that he was not rightly expelled from the party.
He said that the party’s constitution was violated when at that convention voice vote was used to re-elect the Umeh-led executive instead of the prescribed secret ballot, adding that even though the matter was an internal affairs of the party, the court had powers to look into the issues affecting the political parties if their constitution was violated in the conduct of its affairs.
But in his reaction to the judgment, Chief Umeh said that the verdict by Justice Umezulike did not come to him as a surprise, as he had reached the same conclusion even before trial as earlier published by the national dailies.
He said: “It is very clear that Justice Umezulike is very confused in his conclusion. He avoided the National Convention held by APGA February 10, 2011 and sacked the entire members of the National Working Committee elected with me. He declared the election a nullity and turned around to make an order that the NEC of APGA should elect another executive of the party, which is not in the constitution of APGA. First of all, if you remove the entire committee of APGA you have practically left the party without any leadership. So, who is going to convene that meeting to elect a new executive?
“Justice Umezulike was asked to make an order by the plaintiff that congresses of the party shall commence from the Wards, States down to the National Convention to elect officers of the party. He did not make any pronouncement on that prayer made by the plaintiff knowing that there is no way he can validly make the order.
“True, NEC members which he sacked were 29 in number. The plaintiff sued only me (Chief Umeh). If he was challenging my election through that election, he was bound to join all the people elected at that convention and this is one of the reasons why we have said that the suit before him was incompetent. Necessary parties were not joined in the suit.
“By sacking the National Working Committee of APGA that was elected at the National Convention of 10th February 2011 which the court declared null and void, Justice Umezulike has completely decapitated APGA and left it without a leadership. This is like removing the head of a trailer and the body of the trailer can no longer move. By this his judgment, there is no organ of the party left to execute the orders he made, therefore the orders are in vain. Nobody including Governor Peter Obi, the sponsor of this suit can derive any benefit from the judgment until the matter is determined at the two levels of appeal available (Court of Appeal and Supreme Court).