Chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have disdained fortune by flouting President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive, which was endorsed by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), on the institution of legal actions before the courts.
Three weeks after the NEC meeting, an APC leader, Barrister Kalu Agu, approached the court with a fresh suit challenging NEC’s dissolution of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC).
Before Agu’s legal action, another APC chieftain in Lagos State, Chief Lateef Arigbaruwo, had also filed a suit against the party at the Federal High Court in Lagos, seeking the sack of the caretaker committee.
Agu, a youth leader of the party in Abia State, is questioning the powers of the National Executive Council (NEC) to sack the national leaders barely two years out of their constitutionally guaranteed four year term of office.
President Buhari had, at the APC NEC meeting which sacked the Oshiomhole-led NWC on June 25 this year, directed that from that day there should be no more litigations among members of the party or against the party, and that cases in court involving crisis in the party should be withdrawn.
The president said, “In this regard, it is important to discontinue all litigations involving members of the Party, which are connected to issues of the Party and in respect of which several Court Orders and Counter-Orders have been issued against the Party and some specific members of the Party.
“This directive has been issued by the Party before; unfortunately, some members failed to heed the directive. Thus, at this time, it must be made a Resolution of the Party which must be effectively enforced with dire consequences for Members who choose to ignore the directive,” the president warned.
But in the fresh case with suit number: FHC/ABJ/ CS/736/2020, Agu is praying for an order of the Federal High Court in Abuja to set aside the dissolution of the NWC as resolved by the APC NEC meeting held at the presidential villa last month.
He is also praying the court for an order restraining the National Caretaker Committee led by Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, from parading themselves as national officers of the APC and from usurping the functions of the party’s NWC.
The plaintiff who further prayed the court for an order restraining the National Caretaker Committee from putting into effect the resolution of the APC’s NEC meeting passed on June 25, 2020, also asked for an order stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from recognising, dealing with or relating with the caretaker committee in whatever guise to usurp the functions of the NWC.
Similarly, the plaintiff also prayed for an order of mandatory injunction compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to continue to recognise the Oshiomhole-led members of the NWC as the authentic national officers of the party.
In the suit filed on his behalf by Mr Ukpai Ukairo on July 8, the APC chieftain is asking the court to strike down Article 17 of the APC constitution, which provides for appointment of officers into the organs of the party, the ground that it is inconsistent with section 223 of the 1999 Constitution and section 85 of the Electoral Act of 2010.
Insisting that the 1999 Constitution guaranteed four-year tenure for party officials, Agu argued that the APC NEC meeting on June 25, 2020, passed an illegal and unlawful resolution dissolving the NWC and also setting up an illegal caretaker committee of the NWC.
Stressing that the setting up of the caretaker committee was in breach of the constitution, he said members of sacked APC NWC had barely spent two years out of their four-year tenure in office before they were purportedly dissolved by the NEC.
Agu therefore prayed the court for a declaration that the dissolution of the NWC as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void as well as a declaration that the recognition accorded the caretaker committee is unconstitutional and illegal.
In a 44- paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiff who said he is a foundation members of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) under which he contested for the House of Representatives in Arochukwu/Ohafia federal constituency of Abia State in 2011, said he and other members automatically became APC members after the merger of the defunct legacies parties in 2013.
He maintained that he is an accredited APC member and that he was elected as the Abia State youth leader in April 2014 during the state’s congress held at Umuahia, adding that the national officers of the APC were also elected in 2014 in accordance with the party’s constitution.
Joined as respondents in the case are INEC, APC, Governor Mai Mala Buni, Isiaka Oyebola, Ken Nnamani, Stella Okorete, Governor Sani Bello, Dr James Lalu, Senator Abubakar Yusuf, Hon Akinyemi Olaide, David Leon, Professor Their Mamman, Isiaka Ahmed and Senator Akpan Udoedehe.
Meanwhile, another APC member in Lagos State, Chief Lateef Arigbaruwo, had filed a suit against the party at the Federal High Court in Lagos, seeking sack of the caretaker committee.
Arigbaruwo, in the suit number FHC/L/CS/789/2020 which also faulted the NEC meeting of the party held on June 25, has the APC, Mr. Victor Giadom, NEC and INEC as first to fourth respondents respectively.
Arigbaruwo who claims to be a chieftain of the APC in Ojo local government area in Lagos State is asking the court to determine whether having regards to Article 25, paragraph B (i) and (ii) of the Constitution of the party, the 24 hours’ notice given by the 2nd defendant for the NEC meeting held on June 25 was valid and legal.
The suit which was filed on July 1 on behalf of the plaintiff by Mr.
Dimien Edonkumoh, is also seeking “an order of the court setting aside all the decisions taken in the NEC meeting, which he declared illegal on the grounds that it was conveyed in the June 24 and held on June 25, contrary to Article 25 of the APC Constitution.”
The plaintiff, while asking the court to restrain the caretaker committee members from parading themselves in that capacity, also requested the court to grant an order allowing the APC national vice chairman (South-south), Mr Hilliard Eta, to pilot the affairs of the APC as acting national chairman and to preside at all meetings of the National Working Committee and NEC.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court will tomorrow entertain two law suits filed separately by Ekiti and Lagos State governments challenging the validity and constitutionality of virtual court sittings’ procedure.
The highest court in the land listed in its case list against July 14, 2020 the hearing of the suit marked “SC/CV/260/2020’’, filed by the attorney-general and commissioner for justice of Lagos State.
The state government named the minister of Justice and attorney-general of the federation as well s the National Assembly as the 1st and 2nd defendants.
The apex court is also set to entertain the suit marked, “SC/CV/261/2020’’, filed by the attorney-general and commissioner for Justice of Ekiti State against the AGF.
The state government also listed the attorneys-general of Lagos and Ogun States as the 2nd and 3rd defendants.
Both plaintiffs commenced their suits by way of originating summons in the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
The Lagos State is praying the apex court to determine whether having regard to Section 36(1), (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the use of technology by remote hearings of any kind, whether by Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Skype or any other audio visual or video-conference platform by the Lagos State High Court or any other Courts in Nigeria in aid of hearing and determination of cases are constitutional.
On its own, Ekiti State is challenging constitutionality of the directive of the minister of Justice and the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), Malami (SAN), to the Head of Courts at federal and state levels to adopt virtual court sittings in courts.
Ekiti State attorney-general and commissioner for Justice, Wale Fapohunda, who filed the suit asked the apex court to issue an order annulling the directive for the adoption of the Virtual or Remote Court sittings.
He named the attorneys-general of Lagos and Ogun States as 2nd and 3rd defendants because they have implemented virtual court proceedings.
Fapohunda is praying the Supreme Court to nullify the directive to the extent that same purports to be binding on state High Courts and other subordinate courts in Ekiti State for being inconsistent with Section 1(3), 4(6), 5(2), 6(2), 36(3) and (4), 272 and 274 of the 1999 Constitution.
Ekiti State further wants the Supreme Court to determine whether the AGF’s guidelines are not a derogation from the legislative, executive and judicial law-making, law execution and adjudicatory rules making powers exclusively vested in states of the federation in respect of states courts, by virtue of Sections 1(3), 4(6), 5(2), 6(2), 272 and 272 and 274 of the Constitution.
The plaintiff is also asking the apex court to decide whether Lagos
and Ogun States, having adopted virtual court hearings pursuant to the mlockdown, the three arms of Government in Ekiti State are bound to conduct their legislative, executive and judicial functions pertaining to adjudication in state courts in compliance with the directive upon which the National Judicial Council formulated the provisions of Articles E (1) to E(13) of its Guidelines (issued on May 7, 2020).