Oshiomhole and albatross of multiple court orders
The ongoing legal battle between some chieftains of All Progressives Congress (APC) and the embattled National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, has no doubt thrown some Nigerians into confusion regarding his current status in the party.
Since March 4, when the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Jabi, Abuja, ordered an interim suspension of Oshiomhole as the national chairman of APC, there have been two conflicting orders. The political intrigues in the party may have led to an application of interlocutory injunction filed by six plaintiffs led by one Mustapha Salihu.
Meanwhile, whereas Oshiomhole was the first respondent in the matter, APC was second respondent in the application that was dated January 16. The application, which was filed through their lawyer, Oluwole Afolabi sought among other reliefs, to oust Oshiomhole from office as the chairman of the party.
One of the reasons argued in court was that the embattled comrade had been previously suspended as a member of the party from his Etsako Ward 10 in Edo State. The plaintiffs further argued that Oshiomhole failed to challenge his suspension in his primary ward in Edo State. According to them, since his suspension remained extant, “his rights as a member of the party are currently abated” and as such he could not continue to head APC as its chairman.
The plaintiffs also contended that it would be legally wrong for Oshiomhole to continue to enjoy benefits from the party in view of his suspension as a member of the party. In his verdict, Justice Danlami Senchi ordered Oshiomhole to remain on suspension pending the determination of the main suit. The court held that the party was wrong to have continued to retain him as its national chairman while he was under suspension as a member of the party in his state.
The court consequently ordered Oshiomhole to stop parading himself as the national chairman of the party and directed the party to cease to acknowledge him in that capacity. Above all, Justice Senchi ordered the party to deny him access to the party’s secretariat.
The judgment gave impetus to subsequent actions against Oshiomhole, including shutting him out of the premises against the court’s pronouncement that he should, however, be granted access to the premises, and destroying posters bearing his name as the chairman.
Before adjourning the matter till April 7 for hearing on the substantive suit, the judge held that political parties must be bound by their constitution and that since Oshiomhole had been evidently suspended in his ward and the suspension was not challenged, he had no business any longer parading himself as national chairman of the party.
But Oshiomhole had, through his counsel, Mr. Damian Dodo, challenged the competence of the suit, which according to him, constituted an abuse of court process. He maintained that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi to seek such reliefs against his client.
However, while the plaintiffs awaited the April 7 hearing date, the Edo-born politician quickly proceeded to the appellate court, asking it to vacate the order of the lower court and reinstate him as the chairman of the party. And when parties to the matter appeared on March 16 date given by the court, a mild drama ensued as parties were informed that the court would not be determining the matter as scheduled. In fact, they were told that a new date would be communicated to them in due course.
But while waiting for both April 7 date and the decision of the appellate court, an FCT High Court, Maitama, on Monday afternoon, granted an interim order allowing Chief Victor Giadom, APC’s Acting National Secretary to act as the party’s national chairman. Justice Samira Umar Bature made the order following a motion ex-parte filed by the party’s National Vice Chairman, Northeast, Comrade Mustapha Salihu.
The motion, which was argued on his behalf by O.C. Ugwu, sought an interim order allowing Giadom to act as APC’s chairman and to preside over all meetings of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) pending the decision of the party’s NEC fixed for Tuesday, March 17.
The motion also asked for an interim order restraining APC and its officers “or anyone purporting to act as an officer of the 4th defendant (APC) from preventing or in any way, disturbing Chief Victor Giadom (present Acting National Secretary) from functioning as the Acting Chairman (unless otherwise decided by the National Executive Committee of the 4th defendant pending the hearing of the motion on notice.”
Defendants in the motion include Babatunde Ogala, Lanre Issa-Onilu, Waziri Bulama and APC. After granting all the orders sought by the applicant, the judge adjourned the matter till March 20.
However, it was shortly after this order was granted that the Appeal Court reconvened in the evening of the same day it adjourned indefinitely and in its verdict, reinstated the embattled ational chairman through an order of stay of execution of the order of an Abuja High Court, Jabi, which suspended him.
Justice Abubakar Yahaya, who presided over the three-man panel of the court, held that 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, Justice Yahaya said. “There is information that NEC meeting will hold tomorrow and the applicant will not be there.
“Justice would not have been served if the applicant is not at that meeting. The status quo can only be maintained if there is a stay. So, we find merit in the application.
“We hereby order a stay of execution of the lower court made on March 4, 2020, pending the hearing of the notice of appeal slated for Friday, March 20.”
The nagging issue remains: what becomes of the order granted on Monday by the FCT High Court, Maitama, which has so far not been challenged and which the appellate court did not delve into since it was not brought before it for determination or for vacation?
However, an Abuja-based constitutional lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, yesterday gave a legal interpretation to the orders. According to him, by virtue of hierarchy of courts, Oshiomhole remains the chairman of the party pending the outcome of substantive matters pending before the courts.
“From the way I see it as a lawyer who believes in the hierarchy of courts, Oshiomhole remains the chairman of the party,” Ajulo said. “We have to understand the circumstances the orders were given. The first one barred him from parading himself as chairman of the party pending the determination of the substantive matter. It is on that premise, whether he should be the chairman or not that Salihu obtained an interim order for the secretary allowing him as acting chairman of the party pending the determination of substantive matter before the court.
“But now a superior court has reinstated Oshiomhole. Therefore, the issue of acting could no longer hold because his order was to serve as acting but now the chairman has been reinstated. When they call you ‘acting’, it means the substantive chairman is not there, but with the Court of Appeal reinstating him, the issue of acting chairman will not hold forth.
“I don’t see any confusion there; except there is more to it. As I said, I just gave it a legal interpretation. But let me advise all these party men going to court to put their house in order.”
Also supporting Ajulo’s position was Barrister Daniel Makolo. He noted that since a higher court had made pronouncement on the subject matter; that order supersedes those granted by lower courts. He, however, admitted that orders and conflicting orders some times created legal confusion. He fell short of admonishing judges to be mindful of orders they give so the public would see the judiciary in bad light.
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