• Edo: APC's NWC has final say on aspirants' credentials — National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole
    Adams Oshiomhole

    …Adds: Screening Committee-High Court, Appeal Committee-Appeal Court, NWC-Supreme Court

  • ”’Oshiomhole sponsoring protests against Obaseki in Abuja — Edo Dep Gov

  • …Obaseki’ll emerge APC candidate, says Adamawa’s Gov Fintiri

  • …Court stops APC, Oshiomhole from adopting any method for primary

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Innocent Anaba, Gabriel Enogholase, Omeiza Ajayi, Onozure Dania & Ozioruva Aliu

The national leadership of APC yesterday set up a committee to screen its six governorship aspirants in Edo State, saying without prejudice to the work of the committee and that of the Screening Appeals Panel, the National Working Committee, NWC, has the final say on the fate of the aspirants.

Also in Abuja, the crisis in the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Edo State festered yesterday, with the Deputy Governor, Mr Philip Shaibu, accusing the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of instigating and sponsoring protests in Abuja against Governor Godwin Obaseki over alleged certificate forgery.

This is as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, warned all parties in Edo State yesterday not to expose its staff to danger, urging them to shun acts to the contrary.

According to the party, the screening and appeals committees which consist of academics, lawyers and politicians, will help forestall a repeat of the Bayelsa experience, where it lost its mandate due to alleged discrepancies in the certificates of the party’s deputy governorship candidate.

Inaugurating both committees yesterday at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, its National Chairman, Oshiomhole said while the screening committee would act as the High Court, the appeals committee would serve as appellate court, while the NWC would act as the Supreme Court.

He said: “The NWC can reject the screening result. Screening Committee is High Court, Appeal Committee, Appeal Court and the NWC, the Supreme Court.”

Oshiomhole expressed misgivings at the Supreme Court judgment which disqualified the APC deputy governorship candidate for Bayelsa,  after he had earlier been sworn in as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He said: “After intensive consultations, we decided to have people who in our own judgment are sound and when they go through this process, their recommendations will be very helpful. Under our rules, we are expected to set up a screening committee before every election.

“The responsibility of the screening committee is to interact with all those who have aspirations to contest, strictly speaking, not yet aspirants. You become an aspirant after the screening committee has passed you.

“If anybody is dissatisfied with the screening committee’s recommendation, he/she will file an appeal and it will be forwarded to the Appeals Committee and after that, they will make a final recommendation to the NWC that has the final decision as to who is eligible or who is not eligible.”

While he named Professor Jonathan Ayuba as Chairman, Screening Committee, Prof. Abubakar Fari will chair the Appeals Committee.

Other members of the screening committee are Prof. Agbo Madaki,  Ibrahim Zailani, Senator Aishatu Ahmed,  Dr. Jane- Frances Agbu,  Fort Dike and Dr. Rabe Nasir, who would serve as Secretary.

For the Appeals Committee, its members are Prof. Sadeeque Abba,  Gbenga Olubajo, Mohammed Idris, Esther Bepeh and  Daniel Bwala, who would serve as Secretary.

Oshiomhole sponsored protests against Obaseki in Abuja — Shaibu

Also in Abuja, the crisis in the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Edo State festered yesterday, with the Deputy Governor, Mr Philip Shaibu, accusing the National Chairman of the party,  Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of instigating and sponsoring protests in Abuja against Governor Godwin Obaseki over alleged certificate forgery.

However, a chieftain of the APC and an associate of the national chairman, Victor Oshioke,  described the allegation as frivolous.

But Shaibu in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr Benjamin Atu, in Benin yesterday, said:  “The truth is that Obaseki has the goodwill of the President. He has exceeded expectations in terms of performance in office.

“They have no other way to tarnish his image; they, therefore, decided to sponsor protest to create false impression. The protest is the handiwork of the APC National Chairman. The faces may be different but the sponsor is the same.

“It was alleged that the governor had no certificate and now that the certificate of the governor has been made public, they have shifted their accusation from no certificate to the next level of questioning the number of credits awarded in the certificate.

“The question that should be asked is if Obaseki has certificate or  not. Did the Nigerian Constitution mention the number of sittings or the number of subjects  one must pass in the school certificate exams before he can qualify to contest as governor?

“Leading a state is different from leading a mob and the earlier Oshiomhole assumes his rightful position as national leader and not as a sectional chairman, the better for him.

“What is the scale of evaluation upon which the National Chairman of the APC is standing to question the certificate of Edo State governor?

“In the first instance, Obaseki wouldn’t have emerged as governor of Edo State in 2016, if he had no certificate. Oshiomhole wouldn’t have also insisted that Obaseki must be the governor if he knew he had no requisite certificate.

“In Nigeria, the requirement to contest for the position of governor is a WAEC certificate. The constitution didn’t specify the number of subjects or the grades in such subjects for the purpose of evaluation.

“In order to put the record straight, it has been clearly stated that the governor proceeded to the Institute of Continuing Education, ICE, Benin City, before furthering his education. The law didn’t require the governor to tender all his certificates but only his WAEC certificate.

“The problem is that Oshiomhole has elevated sycophancy to an art. The task of governing requires that he maintain a cool mien to enable him carry out the affairs of the party.

“But rather than being a National Chairman, he has chosen to be a sectional leader, instigating crisis in a party he was elected to model.

“As at today, Godwin Obaseki is qualified to contest as governor because nobody went to write an examination for him like other aspirants who used mercenaries in acquiring their educational certificates,” he said.

He can’t do that —APC chieftain

However, a chieftain of the APC, Victor Oshioke, who described the Deputy Governor’s allegation as baseless, said: “For what purpose and to achieve what aim will Oshiomhole sponsor protests against Obaseki in Abuja?

“It is on record that Obaseki and Shaibu are the ones using their aides to sponsor protests in Benin City and Abuja. Video clips abound of Obaseki’s Special Adviser on Community Affairs directing protesters at the APC secretariat in Abuja.

“Also in Benin City, the same Special Adviser and other aides of the governor were captured on video leading protests and burning vehicles on Airport Road in an attempt to prevent Oshiomhole from entering Edo State.

“So, it is the governor and his deputy that are sponsoring protests in Benin City and Abuja. Shaibu’s propensity for violence is legendary; he was captured on video leading over one hundred thugs to attack Oshiomhole during the maiden convocation ceremony of Edo University in Iyamho.

“He has personally threatened people openly and he’s quick to say that he had immunity from prosecution and, therefore, even if he shoots someone, nothing will happen to him. It is on record that he’s the  one that orchestrated the kidnap of some members-elect of Edo State House of Assembly, forced them into a bus that took them to be inaugurated at 10pm against their will. So, he’s the brain behind the House of Assembly crisis that has lingered for over a year now.”

On Oshiomhole fielding Obaseki in 2016, even though Obaseki’s certificates were questionable, Oshioke said: “I can only say that Oshiomhole is not to blame for the improper vetting of documents submitted by candidates in 2016.

“Although the opposition PDP had raised alarm then about Obaseki’s certificates, nobody knew that the anomalies were this serious. But now, after the catastrophe that certificate issues cost the party in Bayelsa State, all APC stakeholders, especially people at the grassroots, are insisting that anyone with questionable certificates should not be given the party ticket.

“That is why you see many APC members mounting pressure on the party hierarchy to disqualify Obaseki, while some are even going to court to challenge his eligibility to even seek the ticket of the party.”

All parties must obey govt gazette in conducting primaries – Edo govt

Meanwhile, the state government has reiterated that all political parties in the state must obey regulations spelled out in its gazette, aimed at curtailing the spread of coronavirus  in the conduct of their primary elections ahead of the September gubernatorial election in the state.

Deputy Governor of the State,  Shaibu, gave the warning in Benin City, yesterday, while receiving his Bayelsa State counterpart, Sen. Lawrence Ehwurudjakpo, who is in the state for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, ward congresses.

Shaibu said: “We got a letter from your party, the PDP, requesting to make use of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for its primary election. Governor Obaseki approved the request because the party obeyed the rules and regulations set by the Edo State Government.

READ ALSO: Window of truce between Obaseki and Oshiomhole still available – Idah

“I therefore, use this opportunity to tell other political parties to obey the gazette in the state, which is now a law. Just as you have obeyed, we are asking and calling on other political parties to obey the law.

“Any political party that disobeys the law will not hold its primary election in the state as the gazette must be respected.”

Shaibu commended the Bayelsa State Government for the unity, progress and development the people are enjoying, saying that the Governor Obaseki led-state government was also ardently pursuing the development and progress of the state.

Ehwurudjakpo on his part, commended the developmental strides of the Obaseki-led administration, assuring of his state’s continued support for progress in Edo State.

APC displays result at factional state secretariat

Also yesterday, the APC pasted credentials of all its six aspirants at its purported new secretariat of the faction loyal to Oshiomhole at No 18 Ighiwiyisi Street, off Airport Road, Benin City.

The credentials of those pasted were Governor Obaseki, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Engr Chris Ogienmwonyi, Osaro Obaze, Pius Odubu and Matthew Iduoriyekenmwen.

Publicity Secretary of the faction of the party loyal to the National Chairman of the party, Chris Azebanmwan said the display of the credentials was in line with decision of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party “which decided that it would place all the names of the aspirants at its national secretariat and the state secretariat of the party. It is for the public to know who their aspirants are and what they claim to possess as qualification.”

But reacting to the development, spokesman of the faction loyal to Governor Obaseki, Pastor Joseph Osagiede told Vanguard yesterday, “We don’t join issues with illegalities, that is an illegal act, it is unconstitutional, it borders on sheer wrong-doing for Oshiomhole to talk about a secretariat that does not exist.”

Chairman of the faction, Anselm Ojezua had said the secretariat remained at No 49 Airport Road Benin City. Vanguard gathered yesterday that the state government had already initiated investigation into the status of the building housing the new secretariat.

Obaseki’ll emerge APC candidate says Adamawa Gov, Fintiri

In another development, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State has expressed optimism that his Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki will overcome the political challenges in the Edo State Chapter of the APC and emerge the party’s flag-bearer in the September 19 governorship election in the state.

Fintiri, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chairman of Ward Congresses Committee for Edo 2020 election stated this on arrival at the Benin Airport to perform the national assignment for his party, the PDP.

He said:  “Obaseki is a democrat; he has given us a venue for the event and we didn’t expect less from him. He will also lodge me in the Government House Quarters, which is normal.”

On the build-up to the activities of the APC primary election in Edo State, Fintiri said “I believe Obaseki will overcome, and we will also overcome our challenges and meet at the election.”

Meanwhile, Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, has described the hullabaloo over Obaseki’s certificates as baseless, unfounded and diversionary, charging those raising eyebrows over the certificates to approach the issuing institutions to verify the authenticity of the particulars.

Osagie said the governor duly earned his certificates from the different educational institutions he attended and anyone raising issues about them is only being mischievous.

On how the governor gained admission to the University of Ibadan with his results, Osagie said, “the criteria for admission is the sole preserve of the institution and anyone with issues over the criteria can also approach the institution for clarification. It is not the place of a political party to query an institution over the requirement for admitting its students.”

Court stops Edo APC primary election

Meanwhile, court papers obtained by Vanguard, yesterday, confirmed that the primary election of the APC in Edo State, slated for June 22, 2020, had been stopped by a Federal High Court sitting in Benin City.

An APC chieftain, Kenneth Asekomhe, suing for himself and State Executive Committee, Edo State chapter, had brought the suit against the APC, National Chairman of the party, Oshiomhole, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and Inspector-General of Police.

Trial judge, M. Umar, had ordered: “Upon this proceedings of June 8, 2020 in this Division of the Court and after hearing Chief H. Ogbodu, SAN with S.J Osarenkhoe and E.O. Ofiyegbe for the 1st defendant, Roland Otaru, SAN with V.E. Ohiosumua, Akinola Oyebanji for the 2nd defendant, who both filed application to show cause and application for objection to the jurisdiction of this court respectively.

“And counsel to the 3rd defendant/respondent, B.O. Owolabi (Mrs) filed no papers and the 4th respondent. Douglas Ogbankwa with Adams Asemota filed an application for joinder and sought to be heard. And Ken Mozie, SAN with J.O. Odubela, SAN, Santos Owootori and Oladipo Osinowo for the plaintiff opposed the application for joinder on the ground that it was not ripe for hearing.

“And the court having given its ruling this June 8, 2020, conceding to the opposition that the motion for joinder is not ripe for hearing.  It is therefore, ordered as follows: 1. That all parties to this suit and their privies are hereby ordered not to do anything or proceed with any action relating to or concerning the procedure to be adopted or used by the 1st defendant primary election coming up next week as scheduled pending the hearing and determination of this suit.

“2. That all applications in this suit and the response of parties shall be heard alongside the originating summons.

“3.That parties are hereby directed to file and serve their responses if any to the processes served on them within 2 days from day.

“4.That the hearing of this suit is fixed for Thursday, June 11, 2020, for hearing of all the applications together with the originating summons.”

INEC warns parties

Ahead of political party governorship primary elections slated for between June 2 and 27, 2020, in Edo State, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has warned parties against exposing electoral officials and other stakeholders to harm, urging them to shun acts to the contrary.

The electoral umpire in a statement by a National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, yesterday,  in Abuja,  added that 14 out of the 15 political parties that will be conducting primary elections in the state have informed it of their preferences for the indirect method. The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is the only party that has opted for direct primary.

According to Okoye, the Commission met virtually, yesterday, considered several issues including the conduct of political party primaries for the Edo State governorship election scheduled for 19 September 2020.

He said in accordance with Sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), “15 out of the 18 registered political parties have notified the commission of their intention to conduct primaries for the purpose of nominating candidates for the Edo State governorship election slated for 19 September 2020.

“By the timetable and schedule of activities issued by the commission on February 6, 2020, party primaries for the Edo governorship election will take place between June 2 and 27, 2020.”

Apart from the APC which has opted for the direct method, the other parties which opted for indirect are AA, AAC, ADC, ADP and APGA. Others are APM, APP, LP, NNPP, NRM, PDP, SDP, YPP and ZLP.

Mixed reactions trail barring of journalists

In another development, the barring of journalists from covering some court cases, particularly the Federal High Court, Benin City, Edo State, which is hearing the suit seeking to stop the APC primary election, has attracted mixed reactions.

Agwu David Nwaze, a legal practitioner and an activist, said in his reaction:  “It is apposite to state firstly that the constitution has made it abundantly clear that court proceedings are to be conducted in public where the right to access the court room is guaranteed by all and sundry. In the same vein, it is trite that the constitution has guaranteed Press Freedom, which is also one of the pillars of any democratic society like Nigeria.

‘’However, I must make haste to say that human rights are not absolute; a corollary to that will be that there are circumstances which limits the exercise of those rights. One of such circumstances is what has come to be termed under the doctrine of necessity which permits, in appropriate situations, for State actors to look beyond the wordings of the constitution and accommodate unforeseen circumstances.

‘’COVID-19, has become a global pandemic ravaging the world, and nations are putting on emergency structures and adopting measures aimed at curtailing the negative effects of the virus, and the spread thereof. So judicially, we cannot be left behind, and limiting the number of lawyers and litigants in a court room per time, is a welcome strategy in the judiciary, aimed at curtailing the spread of the deadly virus, especially at this phase of community spreading of the virus. Apart from the doctrine of necessity aforementioned, this measure is legally justified as the Chief Judges of various States have made their respective Practice Directions to cover for this. So at this juncture, I can say the process is still in order.

‘’I must also note that journalists who follow up on judicial proceedings, more often than not, ought to “relay” to the public and not “report” what happened during the court proceedings, indeed, only in special circumstances, will a journalist be allowed to a verbatim record of a judicial proceedings.

‘’For instance, among other court proceedings on-going, in the Edo State APC case between Mr. Obaseki and Mr. Oshomole, journalists who complained of inability to accurately report to the public what transpired in the court proceedings, could either relay what happened in the course of the proceedings as  relayed to them by the both lawyers or apply to the court officially for the records of proceedings, as the records are public documents.

In a nutshell, in this period of the Covid-19, the judicial process and measure aimed at avoiding court congestion and enhancing social distancing, i.e., limiting the number of lawyers, the parties, and even journalists per time, in court rooms, is a right step in the right direction.

Tope Alabi, a lawyer, said: “Exclusion of journalists from court proceedings amounting to exclusion of the public. Journalists report for the public. In a situation where journalists are excluded and counsel representing parties gave different accounts of what transpired in court, the result would be unbalanced reporting prejudicial to the public and one of the parties and the judicial institution.

“The above Obaseki case in Edo state was held to the exclusion of journalists. Reporting such proceedings for the public can never be interpreted to be against public interest or odious to justice. Therefore, the practice direction ought to be amended to permit journalists access to court rooms for accurate reporting of whatever transpires.

“Section 36 of the constitution protects or guarantees the right of journalists to cover or report court proceedings.’’

Hammed Adetola-Kazeem, a lawyer

The importance of Journalists in serving as watchdog and checking excesses of the all arms of government and individuals cannot be over emphasised. However, this very important role is being threatened by the advent of COVID-19 and the restriction of influx to public places. I believe a balanced approach of allowing at least a journalist who would convey happenings in court to other journalists will solve the twin issue of protection of lives and protection of the integrity of the court through accurate reporting and not reporting according to the whims of parties.

Another lawyer, Imran Abdulganney, said: “Generally and under normal circumstance, a court of law Is a public place where the citizens supposed to have right of ingress and egress without any inhibition, In fact, section 36 (3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) specifically provides that the proceedings of a Court or Tribunal shall be held in public. However, the same constitution provides and empowers the Chief Justice or head of different courts – State High Courts, Federal High Courts, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court – to make Practice Direction to regulate the proceedings of their respective courts.

“It is in exercise of this power that the Chief Justice of each courts have used their discretions to issue what we call practice direction, a form of guidelines stating, among other things, the minimum numbers of people that can attend courts proceedings at any point in time so as to prevents the spreading of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

“However, considering the vital roles being play by the Medias – both printing and electronics –  in the dispensation of justice in Nigeria especially, during this COVID-19 pandemic period when movement into and out of court have been strictly restricted to the members of the public,  the practice direction should have made special provision for the inclusion of minimum or reasonable numbers of journalist that should have been allowed into the court rooms to witness and cover  court proceedings ( especially the one that is  of public interest) so as to be able to give accurate and unblemished  report of the happening in  our courts to the members of the public.”



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