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APC goes ahead with local govt congresses despite Asaba court order

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[files] Buni (left), Buhari (right) and others

• Court order not binding on me, says Buni
• Go to court, risk sanctions, APC warns aggrieved members
• Chieftains drag party, INEC to court over unlawful congress in Benue

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has said it is going ahead with the conduct of its nationwide local council congresses billed to hold tomorrow (Saturday), while vowing “to severely sanction members and their sponsors who take the party to court.”

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APC’s position is in defiance to an order by an Asaba High Court presided by Justice Marshal Umukoro, which on Wednesday, restrained the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) from administering the party pending the determination of a suit brought before it and slated for October 4, this year.

Buni, apparently piqued by the court pronouncement, yesterday went ahead to inaugurate the Osita Okechukwu-led local council congress committee at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.

Buni, represented by the CECPC Secretary, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, charged the officials to conduct the congresses in line with the official timetable/schedule of activities released by the party. The chairman urged committee members to go to their various states of primary assignment with confidence, dignity, commitment, and pride.

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Okechukwu, Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), who spoke on behalf of the LG Congress Committees, promised to conduct the exercise in line with the Constitution of the party and the vision of the founding fathers.

Though Buni was absent from the meeting, he had, before now, delegated most of his functions to Akpanudoedehe.

The APC chief reminded those who drag the party to court of the resolution of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to severely sanction members and their sponsors who indulge in the act.

He said: “Governor Buni is determined to carry out to the letter the instructions of our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, which is to rebuild the party, bottom up. The process has reached an advanced ground stage. Rest assured that your assignment, as well as the earlier Ward congresses nationwide, is legally protected. We are on solid ground.”

The APC chief disclosed the decision to ratify and adopt the results of the party’s earlier nationwide Ward congresses held on July 31, warning that any state caretaker committee that swears in any person or group of persons, not elected through a congress conducted by the designated national congress committee of the party is null, void and of no effect.

Also speaking through his media aide, Director General, Press and Media Affairs, Malam Mamman Mohammed, Governor Buni in the statement titled: ‘The facts in the Delta State court ruling on APC,’ argued that the restriction of the conduct of congresses was only limited to Delta and does not affect other states.

Buni blamed mischief-makers who never wished the party well for the misrepresentation of facts on the court ruling.

According to him: “Mr Elvis Ayomanor and seven others, on August 19, instituted a case against APC and its leadership in Asaba, challenging the outcome of the party’s ward congress of July 31.

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“The seven applicants prayed the court to among other things issue and service the originating summons on 15 defendants including the party, the Chairman Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee and members, as well as the chairman of the party in the state.

“The applicants also sought the court to issue interim injunction to restrain the CECPC chairman and members from acting or parading themselves as leaders of the party pending the determination of the case against the outcome of the ward congress in Delta before the court, while further praying for interim injunction restraining the party from conducting the local government and state government congresses slated for Sept ember 4.

“The court, in its wisdom, ruled that having looked at the motion ex-parte granted the prayers sought in reliefs 1, 2, 3 and 4 that have to do with issues of service of processes on all parties in the suit. Prayer 5 was granted only in relation to the 15th defendant (Jones Ode Erue, Chairman APC, Delta State).

“From the above, it is apparently clear that the court ruling only affected the15th defendant (Delta Chairman of APC) and not the National Chairman, Governor Buni.”

HOWEVER, three APC chieftains have dragged the party and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before a Federal High Court in Abuja, challenging the unlawful conduct of ward congresses in Benue State.

The chieftains, who are aspiring to contest for various elective positions in the party, are praying the court to compel APC and INEC not to accept any list of Ward executive other than product of the consensus list reached at the meeting in Makurdi of August 1.2021 for Otukpo/Ohimini Federal Constituency.

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Their grouse in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/969/2021, was that attempt was made to tinker with the consensus ward executive list agreed upon by stakeholders in the state.

In the suit instituted on their behalf by John Ochogwu, the plaintiffs asked the court to determine whether by combined effect of Section 223 of the 1999 Constitution, Article 30 of the APC Constitution and guidelines for the congresses and Section 85 of the Electoral Act, the ward executive congresses conducted on August 1 for
Otukpo/Ohimini Local Government Area without due regard to the consensus reached on August 1, violated the Constitution of the party and the Electoral Act.

The plaintiffs further want the court to determine whether in the absence of due compliance with section 223 of the 1999 Constitution, Article 20 of the APC Constitution and the Electoral Act and the consensus of August 1, the announcement of a different list on a radio station in Otukpo, Benue State is legal, permissible and constitutional.

They also prayed the court to determine whether the list of wards executives for Otukpo/Ohimini Local Governments endorsed by APC National Ward Congresses of Mohamad Mashi is not illegal, null and void, having been produced without due regard to the 1999 Constitution, the APC guidelines for the ward congresses and the Electoral Act.

Plaintiffs are Dr Wilson Eche, Bartholomew Alike and Eigege Adejo, while APC and INEC are first and second respondents respectively.

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