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How leaders breached rules on lawsuits with impunity

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LAWLESS PARTY: How leaders breached rules on lawsuits with impunity
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…The 11 cases that wrecked party leadership

By Omeiza Ajayi & Chris Onuoha

Article 21A (x) of the 2014 Constitution of the All Progressives Congress APC (as amended) states: “Filing an action in a Court of Law against the Party or any of its Officers on any matters relating to the discharge of the duties of the Party without first exhausting all avenues for redress provided for in this Constitution” is an offence.

Article 21D (v) of the same Constitution provides the punishment thus: “Any member who files an action in court of law against the Party or any of its officers on any matter or matters relating to the discharge of the duties of the Party without first exhausting the avenues for redress provided for in this Constitution shall automatically stand expelled from the Party on filing such action and no appeal against expulsion as stipulated in this Clause shall be entertained until the withdrawal of the action from Court by the Member”.

From the above, it is pertinent to state that most of the major disputants in the current crisis of leadership in the APC should have been expelled were these constitutional provisions followed stricto senso.

For all it is worth, the APC is busting at its seams due to the various court cases against it by its own members.

Those cases hanged over its neck like the Sword of Damocles.

There were, at the last count, no fewer than 11 cases instituted at the High Court and Court of Appeal on the APC crisis.

The multiplicity of the cases and the chaos they were causing were the reasons adduced by the National Executive Committee (NEC) in dissolving the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party at the federal level, last week.

For instance, a factional Deputy State Chairman of the party in Edo State, Kenneth Asekomhe, and one of the governorship aspirants of the party, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Benin early in June against the direct primary method adopted by the now dissolved NWC.

Before then, the party had had to contend with several lawsuits in March.

Prominent among them was the suit instituted by the National Vice Chairman, North East of the party, Comrade Mustapha Salihu, against the National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala; National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa Onilu, acting National Secretary, Arc. Waziri Bulama, and the APC itself.

The suit was to make the Deputy National Secretary of the party, Chief Victor Giadom, acting National Chairman.

So, on March 16, the Federal Capital Territory FCT High Court granted an interim injunction allowing Giadom to function undisturbed in the said capacity.

The suit had originated from another which had suspended Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as National Chairman and, with no substantive Deputy National Chairman (South) who automatically should have stepped into Oshiomhole in place as the occupant, Mr Segun Oni, who had resigned to contest Ekiti State governorship election, had not been effectively replaced by Senator Abiola Ajimobi while there was no substantive National Secretary, the suit had prayed Giadom was the next in rank to assume office as acting National Chairman

Meanwhile, earlier on March 5, one Mohammed Rabiu was at the Federal High Court in Kano to challenge the order of the FCT High Court which suspended Oshiomhole.

Rabiu got an interim order from Justice Lewis Allagoa asking the party to maintain the status quo before the said suspension.

Days later, precisely on March 13, the Chairman of the APC in Lagos State, Tunde Balogun, secured a restraining order of the Federal High Court in Lagos against the NEC of the party.

The order restrained the proposed March 17 NEC meeting of the ruling party from disturbing the acting National Secretary, Bulama; Ajimobi, acting Deputy National Chairman (South), and National Auditor, Paul Chukwuma, from discharging their mandates.

The said order affirmed the appointment of Ajimobi as acting Deputy National Chairman, South.

On the same day, National Vice Chairman, North-West of the APC, Inuwa Abdulkadir, got an order from a High Court in Sokoto which restrained the party from appointing or electing Issa-Onilu or any member into its top positions except through the party’s National Convention.

READ ALSO: APC crisis behaviour of fight club, not culture of progressive political party ― Tinubu

On June 16, 2020, the Court of Appeal in Abuja affirmed the March 4 order of the FCT High Court, suspending Oshiomhole from the party.

Giadom, subsequently on June 18, secured a two-week extension of the court order which made him acting National Chairman.

On that same day, National Vice Chairman, North-East of the APC, Salihu, dissociated himself from a court order directing him to take over as acting National Secretary of the party.

The court order, dated June 16, 2020, was purportedly obtained at the FCT High Court sitting at Maitama and presided over by Justice S. U Bature.

The motion ex-parte with number FCT/HC/M/7707/2020 was supported by an affidavit sworn by one Obinna Ugwu.

Meanwhile, on June 20, Salihu applied to the FCT High Court to strike out the order making him acting National Secretary of the party, saying his previous application to that effect had now been overtaken by events.

On June 17, a day after the appellate court affirmed his suspension, Oshiomohle got a Federal High Court order stopping Edo State government and Gov. Godwin Obaseki from arresting and prosecuting him over the report of a judicial panel of enquiry.

On June 19, a Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt granted an interim order in respect of the suit between Dele Moses & Ors Vs APC & Ors, with suit number PHC/360/2020, dated June 19, 2020.

The said court order restrained Giadom from further parading himself as the Deputy National Secretary, Acting National Chairman and as a member of the NWC of the APC.

The Zonal Executive Committee, subsequently, unanimously resolved to obey the court order.

On June 23, a High Court in Port Harcourt also ordered Giadom to stop parading himself as a party official or participating in the activities of the APC.

Earlier on June 20, the court in Port Harcourt had granted an order of interim injunction restraining the APC from recognizing or regarding Giadom as acting National Chairman of the APC and a member of its NWC.

Two members of APC in Rivers State, Dele Moses and Azunda Wori had filed suit PHC/360/2020 challenging the validity of Giadom’s claim as the acting National Chairman of the APC having been purportedly suspended from the APC by the Rivers State chapter of the party.

The alarm

On June 23, the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC raised the alarm over the increasing wave of pre-election litigations, expressing concerns that the development could scuttle the forthcoming governorship election in Edo.

“Political Parties should note that the organisation and scheduling of various activities and processes leading to the conduct of elections are complex and involve extensive and careful planning and any disruption of these processes comes at a huge cost to the nation”, the Commission had stated.

“The spate and tenor of pre-election litigations and the conflicting orders emanating therefrom can harm the smooth conduct of primaries and the upcoming elections. The Commission is closely monitoring the cases arising from the administration of political parties, the conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates. This notwithstanding, the Commission restates its avowed commitment to continue to obey all orders and judgments from properly constituted courts in accordance with the rule of law”.

In Edo, there is another lawsuit challenging Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s membership of the APC.

As the governorship candidate of the APC, there is no gain saying that even if he wins the election in September, those who never wanted him in APC from the outset would seek to get him out of the way through the courts.

Intrigues

It is not only INEC that is worried about the intervention of the courts in the internal affairs of political parties as we can see in the APC.

Lawyers are also worried.

Mr Jiti  Ogunye, a Lagos based lawyer, said courts appear now to be welded to the intrigues in our political parties and whims and caprices of politicians who are waging unending warfare in political parties.

“This is not the first time I will refer to this. In the past, PDP was embroiled in internal leadership crisis and they were going to court every time. Now it is the APC. I worry generally about courts, and I also worry about the pronouncements of our courts regarding political cases and the implications for not only the judiciary but also for our electoral system and our democracy and governance”, Ogunye said during a TV programme after the Court of Appeal upheld the suspension of Oshiomhole as APC National Chairman.

“In this case, the court has intervened again as many courts did in the past over the APC leadership problem.

“Nigerians can recall, it is not only an Abuja court that has intervened, desperate orders are being procured in Kano and Sokoto High Courts.

“Let me tell you why I said I am bothered. Look, in ordinary civil cases, for those who are familiar with what I am saying, if it were in certain threshold that cases, political cases, trade union cases, cases of administrative discipline must reach a court before they become justice scheduled, we have a doctrine of rightness and a section of administrative remedies.

“In trade unions and political parties also in matters that are regarded as internal affairs of the party unto which certain threshold, until they exhaust all the administrative and internal remedies, you can’t go to court. “And so, I would wish to see our court remedy many of these cases and pull back as a deliberate judicial policy, because it anchors on the rule of law and we have cases to support that.

“For example when people in the public service are taken through administrative disciplinary process, they could be suspended for example and they are asked to appear before a panel, after that suspension to determine whether they will be dismissed or reinstated.

“If they go to court, the court will say, ‘look, you have not exhausted the internal remedy of that level. Go and appear before that panel. Sort it out before you come and bother us in court’.

“The speed with which our courts, serially now, dabble into these political matters worries me, because they could do serious damage to the health of the judiciary. But I am not concerned about that than the fate of our politicians”.

Vanguard

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