National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) scheduled for Tuesday would hold despite multiple court rulings threatening it, a reliable presidency source told THISDAY last night, saying President Muhammadu Buhari had indicated to the party’s governors that he would attend.
THISDAY had reported on Monday that the Tuesday date for the meeting was authorised by the president, who in response to a written request by the Acting National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, had sanctioned the date.
The meeting of the second highest organ of the party had been called on heels of the ruling of an Abuja High Court, confirming the suspension of the National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, by his ward in Edo State.
Although the national chairman got another ruling from the Federal High Court, sitting in Kano restraining the party from giving effect to his suspension, the acting national secretary had insisted that the suspension subsisted.
Oshiomhole had also argued that having appealed the Abuja court ruling and filed a stay of proceedings, he ought to remain the national chairman.
His appeal, THISDAY learnt would be heard on Monday.
However, a couple of rulings had surfaced during the week to compound the crisis in the ruling party.
On Tuesday, the National Vice-Chairman, North-east, Mr. Mustapha Salihu, had obtained an order of an Abuja High Court restraining three officers of the party, the National Legal Adviser, Mr. Babatunde Ogala; the ‘National Secretary,’ Mr. Waziri Bulama; and National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, from obstructing the Tuesday NEC meeting.
The order came on the strength of the statement made last weekend by the trio that the scheduled meeting was unconstitutional and should be ignored by the relevant stakeholders.
Thursday, the trio returned to court to get their own order from the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, which ordered that the Tuesday meeting must not go on except a former Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi; Secretary of APC, Mr. Waziri Bulama and Acting National Auditor, Mr. Paul Chukwuma, were allowed to attend.
Justice Mohammed Liman, in a ruling in an ex-parte motion, filed by the Lagos State Chairman of the APC, Mr. Tunde Balogun, restrained the APC and its officials from “disturbing, preventing or obstructing Waziri Bulama, Abiola Ajimobi, and Paul Chukwuma from carrying out their duties as acting National Secretary, acting National Deputy Chairman (South) and acting National Auditor of the APC, respectively.”
But in a swift reaction, Giadom said the party was not aware of any court order directing it to allow some persons to be part of the NEC meeting.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja, however, has scheduled hearing for Monday in the appeal by Oshiomhole against his suspension.
In the ex-parte motion before Justice Liman, argued by Balogun’s lawyer, Mr. Gani Bello, the plaintiff prayed the court to compel the APC to recognise Bulama as the party’s acting National Secretary; Ajimobi, as the acting National Deputy Chairman (South) and Chukwuma as the acting National Auditor of the party.
He told the court that after the three offices became vacant and were zoned to different geopolitical zones, Bulama was nominated by the North-east; Ajimobi, by the South-west and Chukwuma by the South-east.
Balogun said the nomination of Bulama was ratified at the meeting of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) held on January 14, 2020 while those of Ajimobi and Chukwuma were ratified at the NWC meeting of March 4, 2020.
“By virtue of the ratification stated above, the nominees have become members of the National Executive Council and are entitled by the constitution of the defendant (APC) to work and operate in acting capacities in their respective offices pending their swearing-in at the national convention of the party.
“In spite of the foregoing, the defendant (APC), acting through its officials and officers, particularly, the deputy national secretary has not allowed the nominees to perform their duties as members of the National Executive Council,” Balogun said.
He told the court that the APC National Executive Council could not effectively operate unless Bulama, Ajimobi and Chukwuma were allowed to perform their duties.
Balogun prayed the court to compel the APC to recognise them.
After listening to the applicant’s lawyer, Justice Liman granted the prayers and adjourned till March 25, to take the motion on notice.
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had on Wednesday restrained the party’s National Legal Adviser, Mr. Babatunde Ogala, and two other executive members of the APC from interfering with the scheduled NEC meeting of the party slated for March 17, 2020.
Also restrained alongside Ogala are the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Lanre Issa-Onilu, and ‘National Secretary,’ Mr. Waziri Bulama.
Justice S. U. Bature restrained the trio while ruling on an ex-parte application filed by the party’s National Vice Chairman (North-east), Mr. Mustapha Salihu.
The motion marked: CV/1385/2020 was filed and argued on behalf of Salihu by his lawyer, Mr. Afamefuna Ekekwe.
Party Denies Receiving Any Court Order
However, Giadom said the party was not aware of any court order directing it to allow some persons to be part of the NEC meeting.
Giadom told journalists at the end of the National Working Committee (NWC) meeting yesterday that if the party received the court order, the party would refer to its constitution and take it up from there.
He stated: “As NWC, we just concluded our meeting just to inform the public that the NEC meeting scheduled for the 17th March will still hold and every preparation towards that meeting is in top gear. I want to use this opportunity to invite all NEC members to attend the meeting.”
He explained that every member of the NEC is prepared to attend the meeting.
Asked if he was aware of any court ruling that certain people must be part of the NEC meeting, otherwise, it becomes irrelevant, Giadom said: “Not to my knowledge. We will like to see the court order and if that happens we refer back to our constitution. We will take it up from that point.”
Signs that the APC crisis was not abating emerged yesterday when the billboard and a banner displaying Oshiomhole’s picture and that of President Muhammadu Buhari were removed by the party.
It was gathered that the billboard was replaced last night with Buhari’s banner ahead of the emergency NEC meeting.
Appeal Court to Hear Oshiomhole’s Suspension March 16
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal in Abuja has scheduled hearing for Monday in the appeal by Oshiomhole against his suspension.
Oshiomhole is, by his appeal, seeking among others, the reversal of his suspension by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Court of Appeal’s Registry yesterday communicated the hearing date to parties via hearing notices sent to them earlier this week.
Oshiomhole, in his appeal, raised four grounds on which he is challenging the ruling by Justice Senchi.
He argued that the judge erred in law and arrived at a wrong conclusion, which occasioned a miscarriage of justice, when the court placed him on suspension at an interlocutory stage of a suit instituted against him by some aggrieved members of the party.
Oshiomhole also argued that the court further erred in law when it decided that he, in the performance of his duties as APC national chairman would interfere in the court action filed against him by the aggrieved members.
Respondents in the appeal are: APC National Vice Chairman (Northeast), Mr. Mustapha Saliu; Edo State APC Chairman, Hon. Anselm Ojezua; Alhaji Sani Gomna; Mr. Oshawo Stephen, Mr. Fani Wabulari and Mr. Princewill Ejogharado.
Others are the Inspector General of Police and the Department of State Services (DSS).