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Rivers’ APC crisis deepens as court declares Aguma acting chairman

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The crises rocking the All Progressives Congress(APC), in Rivers state was yet to be over as a State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt declared Igo Aguma, a former member of House of Representatives, chairman of the party in the State.

The crises started with the party separating into two factions, the Chibuike Amaechi and Magnus Abe faction following Abe’s interest to be the party’s standard-bearer in 2015 and 2019 election which Amaechi opposed.

Aguma was a close alley to Amaechi and a firm believer in his faction but He felt some injustices were going on in the party and he went to court on December 2019 seeking for inclusiveness, internal democracy, unity, progress and peace in the party.

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However, with the court declaring Aguma the acting Chairman of the party, appears that the party has divided into three factions because Amaechi and Abe is yet to come to terms, while Aguma’s leadership which has the strong support of other party stalwarts, decamped from Amaechi’s group, though Aguma said, the essence of his action was to bring unity and peace in the party.

Aguma had approached the court and prayed it to declare the five-man caretaker committee constituted by the national leadership of the party illegal, stop party’s congresses and also declare him the leader of the party in the State by virtue of his position as the National delegate and statutory member of the party.

In the suit with reference number: PHC/4355/2019, Aguma sued the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of APC in Rivers, Isaac Ogbobula, the APC; and its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole for not adhering to the party rules.

Justice George Omereji, yesterday, after listening to the submissions of the claimant’s counsel, Echezona Etiaba, (SAN), declared that there was issues of injustice and violation of the civil right of the applicant, adding that Aguma has the locus standi to approach the court based on that.

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He also ruled that the suit was not an abuse of the court process, because he (Aguma)only requested that the APC rules should be followed, noting that the claimant being a former member of House of Representatives meets the requirements of a statutory member.

The court also compelled the party to allow all members of the party loyal to Sen. Magnus Abe who purchased form for the congresses of the party in 2018 to take part in the Congress to be rescheduled by the party.

Justice George Omereji gave these rulings in two separate suits brought before him by Dele Moses and 9 others and Igo Aguma, on different matters in the crises rocking the party in the state.

The judge noted that no section of the APC constitution prohibits the statutory members of the party not to carry out the duties of the State Executive Committee in their absence, noting that in the case such lacuna that will warrant the setting up of the Committee by the national body of the party has not arisen because there was still the State Executive Committee of the party in the state.

“It is my view that the appointment of the caretaker of the Committee without the inclusion of the national delegate and SEC is a violation of the party’s constitution. All the National Convention Delegates and State Executive Committee members should be part of the caretaker Committee.” Justice Omereji stated.

He noted that the tenure of the caretaker committee of the party elapsed in September, noting that the continuous stay of the caretaker Committee is null and void and injurious.

Omereji granted all the prayers of the claimant, Aguma and held that the decision of the court should be given immediate effect to enable the second party to rebuild itself.

On issues of jurisdiction as raised by the defendants, Omereji held that the court has the right to entertain the matter to see whether the rights of the claimants have been violated, adding that defendants have not established that the claimant have no locus standi and had provided no evidence to show that he (Aguma) did not exhaust all the avenues in the party before approaching the court.

Also, on the matter brought by Dele Moses and nine others, Omereji held that only those who purchased the form to participate in the annulled Congresses of the party in the state should participate in the Congresses to be rescheduled by the party.

The judge granted all six prayers of the applicants, ruling that the court can interfere in the internal affairs of the party when the party constitution are not followed.

He held that democracy would be effective in the country when the parties have internal democracy, noting that the suit by Moses and others is justiceable.

He ruled that all the candidates and those excluded in the cancelled Congresses are automatically to be allowed to participate in the process.

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Speaking on the judgement, Aguma, said the ruling has given the party opportunity to make peace, noting that the party is bigger than individuals.

Aguma promised to be firm in piloting the affairs of the party, assuring that peace would be restored in the party.

However, counsel for the defendants, Mr Emenike Ebete, said the decisions of the court on the two matters would be challenged at the Court of Appeal.

He said the court erred in its decisions, adding that the judgement would not survive when tested at the appellate court.

Recall that the Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt, had in 2019 struck out the suit by Ibrahim Umar and 22 others, who are supporters of Senator Abe, who was the APC’s governorship aspirant during the 2015 and 2019 elections in the State.

With the judgement, the interim order which halted the ward, local government and State Congresses of the party was set aside, but Abe’s supporters vowed to approach the court of appeal to address their grievances.

Sequel to the developments, the National Leadership of the party rescheduled a fresh date for the congresses but Aguma’s move to the court forced the attempts to a halt again.

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