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APC confusion deepens over Oshiomhole, NEC

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Adamu Abuh, Terhemba Daka, Oludare Richards (Abuja), Leo Sobechi and Seye Olumide (Lagos)
17 March 2020   |   4:15 am
The confusion over the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) deepened yesterday with the suspension of the planned National Executive Council (NEC) meeting and a court ruling on an appeal filed by the embattled national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole.

• Buhari okays NEC shift • NWC meeting holds today
•Appeal Court stays execution of order on chair
• Omo-Agege, others want party constitution obeyed

The confusion over the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) deepened yesterday with the suspension of the planned National Executive Council (NEC) meeting and a court ruling on an appeal filed by the embattled national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole.

In a move to arrest the crisis tearing the ruling APC apart, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday approved the postponement of the meeting when he met with APC governors, including those of Borno, Lagos, Ogun, Edo, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Ondo, Kano, Osun, Katsina Imo and Gombe states in his office.

At the end of the meeting, the chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, told reporters that the NEC meeting would hold when the governors were able to resolve the existing debacle.

“We told the president that the governors had resolved to work together to resolve all the issues in the party. Also, we seek Mr. President’s support to postpone the NEC meeting that is scheduled for tomorrow (today) until such a time that the governors are ready to report back,” Bagudu said.

On Buhari’s response to the request, Bagudu said: “He was so happy that we all agreed to that.”The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had earlier met with the president in the villa in what observers described as the last- minute effort to save Oshiomhole.

The agenda of the brief meeting was not immediately disclosed at press time as it was held behind closed doors. But feelers from sources indicated that the meeting revolved around the APC internal crisis.

It was learnt from sources that the embattled APC chairman himself had earlier been sighted at the villa where he visited the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.

A source, who was privy to the private meeting, said “it will certainly” not be unconnected with the prevailing developments in the APC.The confusion over the APC’s crisis also worsened yesterday when the Court of Appeal granted Oshiomhole’s appeal.

He had gone to the court to challenge his suspension as the chairman of the party by the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory. Oshiomhole, in his appeal, specifically asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the suspension order of Justice Senchi and restore his position as the national chairman of the APC.

The appeal, which was earlier slated for hearing yesterday morning by the Court of Appeal was, however, stood down till evening, following an announcement by a three-man panel of justices of the court headed by Justice Steven Adah that another panel would handle the matter.

And when the court reconvened, the three-man panel headed by Justice Abubakar Dati Yahaya upheld Oshiomhole’s ex-parte application for a stay of execution of the ruling of the high court.

Oshiomhole’s legal team had argued that the order of the trial court had already created a situation of disorder in the party and the situation could degenerate if the appellate court failed to intervene.

Oshiomhole had in the ex-parte application prayed the court to halt the suspension order on the grounds that there would be no status quo ante belum if the appellate court failed to to do so.

His lead lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had informed the Court of Appeal that there was a NEC meeting of the APC slated for Tuesday March 17, wherein the applicant would be excluded, going by the suspension order of the lower court.

Olanipekun said that time was of essence because of the seriousness of the issue, arguing that there would be an irredeemable damage if the court did not intervene.

In its ruling, the appellate court held that the status quo could only be maintained if the order of the lower court was stayed.“We have looked at the application and we are of the view that the image of emergency has been painted. There is information that the NEC would hold a meeting tomorrow and the applicant will not be there.

“Justice would not have been served if the applicant is not in that meeting. The status quo can only be maintained if there is a stay.

“We find merit in the application and we hereby order a stay of execution of the lower court order made on March 4, 2020, pending the hearing of the notice of appeal slated for Friday March 20, 2020”.

The Court of Appeal went further to order all parties in the suit not to take any further steps that would affect its ruling. Beyond that, the appellate court made an order of accelerated hearing in the matter.

Justice Yahaya urged politicians to learn to resolve their problems without involving the courts.Upon granting the order, the court consequently adjourned further hearing till Friday, March 20.

Oshiomole, in the appeal which had Mustapha Salihu, Anselm Ojezua, Sani Gomna, Oshawo Steve, Fani Wabulari and Princewill Ejogharado as respondents, claimed that the trial court erred in law to have arrived at a “wrong” conclusion which occasioned a miscarriage of justice when it decided that his performance as APC national chairman would interfere with the party membership rights of the first to sixth respondents in the suit, at the interlocutory stage.

He claimed that the judge erred in law and arrived at a wrong conclusion which occasioned a miscarriage of justice when it placed him on suspension at an interlocutory stage of a suit instituted against him by the aggrieved members of the party.

According to him, the issue of duties as APC national chairman is a matter which arose from substantive issues for determination and ought not to have been determined at the interlocutory stage of the main matter.

Justice Danlami Senchi of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, on March 4, granted an order of interim injunction stopping Oshiomhole from parading himself as the national chairman of the APC.

The judge, while granting the injunction held that political parties must be bound by their constitution, and having been suspended by his ward, Oshiomhole was restrained from functioning as the national chairman of the party pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

The judge consequently fixed hearing of the matter for April 7 and 8.

The chairman of the Edo State branch of the APC, Anselm Ojezua, had in 2019, stated that the suspension of Oshiomhole, was based on President Buhari’s admonition that any member who was not relevant in his ward, local government area and state could not hold office at the national level.

He said that the Edo APC had concluded that Oshiomhole lacked the capacity, temperament and moral authority to lead the APC as national chairman.Ojezua insisted that any action taken by Oshiomhole in the capacity of national chairman, including documents signed and meetings presided over by him might be futile as his membership was already compromised.

Although the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory is yet to hear the matter slated for April 7 and 8, the yesterday order granted by the Court of Appeal overrides any order granted by the court below.

The confusion is specifically inherent in what has turned out to be two different orders of court on who leads the affairs of the APC in the capacity of the national chairman.

Before the order by the Court of Appeal which granted stay of execution on the earlier order granted by the FCT High Court, suspending Oshiomole as the chairman of the APC, a Maitama Division of the FCT High Court had granted an ex-parte application filed by Mustapha Salihu.

Salihu had sought an interim order allowing Chief Victor Giadom to pilot the affairs of the APC, as acting chairman and to preside at all meetings of the NEC, including the one fixed for March 17, or any subsequent adjourned date, pending the hearing and determination of motion on notice.

The motion ex-parte was marked M/6447/2020 and has Babatunde Ogala, Lanre Issa-Onilu, Waziri Bulama and APC, as defendants in the matter.Salihu also sought an interim order restraining APC and its officers or any one purporting to act as an officer of APC from preventing or in any way disturbing Giadom (present acting National Secretary) from functioning as the acting chairman (unless otherwise decided by the NEC of the fourth defendant, which is APC), pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

Both applications were granted as prayed by Justice S.U. Bature as the case was adjourned till March 20 for hearing and possible determination.A source within the Presidency who spoke to The Guardian in confidence, disclosed that President Buhari acceded to the indefinite suspension of the NEC meeting for reason of his trip to Guinea Conakry.

The source explained that during the meeting between the president and governors, Buhari expressed concerns about the misunderstanding and urged the governors to adopt a common stand to serve as a basis of resolving the crisis threatening the party.

One of the governors hinted that as law-abiding citizens, they were not prepared to infringe on the legal processes already initiated, stressing that the issue of prevailing on those that filed the processes to withdraw them did not arise during the discussion with President Buhari.

Although the embattled national chairman is making frantic efforts to get a breather, sources within the party said that the fact that he filed an appeal against the FCT High Court ruling stood against a possible early out-of-court resolution.

“If there is anybody to withdraw his case from the court, it should start from Oshiomhole. And if he withdraws his case, what do you do with the ruling of the FCT High Court? So, whoever is telling you about out-of-court settlement should explain how that could be done,” the source stated.

Out of the 20 governors elected on the APC platform, the four who were unavoidably absent from the parley with the President are Kayode Fayemi, Nasir el Rufai, Yahaya Bello and Muhammed Bulum.

The implication of the two separate court rulings is that until the FCT High Court ruling on Giadom’s suit and the FCT High Court earlier order upholding Oshiomhole’s suspension are determined, the confusion lingers and the APC crisis deepens.

An inside source in APC revealed to The Guardian that the indefinite suspension of the NEC meeting yesterday was good because it actually saved the party from complete collapse.

It was learnt that President Buhari was prevailed upon to suspend the NEC meeting, otherwise, whichever faction loses would have accused him of backing the other group, a situation that could lead to the collapse of the party.

“There are accusations and counter-accusations that Buhari is taking sides. If you look at Tinubu’s statement critically, it was clearly stated that for the national secretary to have the temerity to go ahead with what he did means he is getting the backing of some powerful cabal in the party. You would also recall that Tinubu himself was said to have had the backing of President Buhari to support the emergence of Oshiomhole as national chairman in 2018. It would have been a complex situation if the meeting had held and positions taken.”

The source said the postponement would give the party’s leadership the opportunity to further consult with the governors, who wield enormous powers in the party.

Earlier yesterday, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo –Agege, had distanced himself from the planned NEC meeting,.Other top party members from the South -South geopolitical zone who aligned themselves with Omo-Agege’s position, include the APC National Vice Chairman, South -South, Mr. Hilliard Eta, and the Deputy House of Representatives Leader, Peter Akpatason.

In a communique issued at the end of the parley they held in Abuja on Sunday night, the party members argued that the Acting National Secretary of the party, Mr. Victor Giadom, did not have the constitutional powers to summon NEC meeting.

The group argued that Giadom was not a member of the party’s NWC, having resigned his position as deputy national secretary to contest election in Rivers State as deputy governorship candidate in 2019.

“We implore all members of NEC to respect the decisions of the National Working Committee (NWC) of our party that the purported NEC meeting summoned by Giadom is illegal and unconstitutional,” they pleaded.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC has been scheduled for today.Lanre Issa-Onilu, APC National Publicity Secretary, in a statement yesterday night said the meeting would hold at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja by 12 noon.

“All members of the NWC are expected to attend as important matters concerning the party will be considered and deliberated at the meeting”, it said.

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