The power tussle in the All Progressives Grand Alliance has worsened as the Federal High Court on January 15 sacks the Victor Umeh-led executives while recognising the Maxi Okwu-led faction
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jan. 27, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
The battle for the soul of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, is still on. A Federal High Court, in Abuja, on January 15, sacked Victor Umeh, national chairman of the party, from office and directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to henceforth recognise Maxi Okwu as the chairman of the party. The court presided by Justice Abdulkadir Abdul-Kafarati further ordered Sani Shinkafi, national secretary of the party, and other members of the National Working Committee, NWC, elected alongside Umeh at a convention held on February 18, 2011, in Awka, Anambra State, to vacate their respective offices.
The court also directed the INEC to relate with Ibrahim Carefor, Dickson Ogu, Gbenga Afeni and Abubakar Adamu, as the duly elected national officers of APGA. They all emerged from a separate convention of the party that also held in Awka, on April 8, 2013. “Umeh and Shinkafi (first and second defendants), having been expelled from the party whether lawfully or unlawfully, regularly or irregularly, cannot validly continue to occupy the positions of national chairman and national secretary, respectively, when the suit they filed challenging their said expulsion has not been decided in their favour. The second defendant, having first been elected national secretary of the party on January 10, 2003, which is over 10 years ago, cannot validly continue in office 10 years after he was first elected when by Article 18(2) of the constitution of the party, any official of the party can only stay in office for a maximum of two terms of four years each,” he said.
The judge equally noted that both defendants were voted into office by voice votes rather than secret ballot as stipulated by the constitution of APGA. A process, he said, invalidated their emergence as valid national officers of the party. He stressed that unless and until the judgement of the Awka High Court given in a suit that was earlier filed by one Michael Joe Onwudinjo, which had recognised the Okwu-led faction of the party, was set aside by a higher court, it remained binding, subsisting and must be obeyed by INEC.
Reacting to the judgement, Umeh said it did not come to him as a surprise because it was supposed to have been delivered earlier and that it was aimed at ambushing APGA’s programmes. He contended that the Enugu Division of the Appeal Court had ab-initio okayed the indefinite suspension of all the Okwu-led executives from the party and stressed that the Supreme Court was already aware of the facts of the case. “Justice Kafarati was gravely in error, so there is nothing to worry about, the convention has no foundation, and the said convention relied on by the court has been set aside by the Court of Appeal. We have an application for a stay of execution, notice of appeal including. We are unruffled by the judgment because we know that the court of appeal will at all times protect its judgment,” Umeh said.
On his part, Shinkafi, said his faction had prepared the appeal in anticipation of the judgment, saying they had also concluded plans to drag Justice Abdul-Kafarati before the National Judicial Council, NJC. “It is this kind of judgment that makes us call for a total overhaul of the judicial system in this country and sack of bad judges. This kind of verdict is capable of setting a bad precedence; it is nothing but sheer judicial rascality on the part of the judge to sit on appeal over the previous judgment of a higher court even when the same matter is still pending before the Supreme Court. This judgment was fraudulent. However, there is no cause for alarm. We are going to write a petition against the judge. Okwu’s expulsion from APGA was upheld by the Supreme Court and since then he has not been granted pardon by the party, so one wonders the basis of this judgment by Justice Abdul-Kafarati. Anyway, it is not surprising to us. We all know the antecedent of this judge. He was the same man that sacked Oyinola as the national secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; a verdict that was accordingly set aside by a higher court. We have already filed our appeal and applied for a stay of execution. We want to assure all APGA supporters that there is no cause for alarm,” he said.
Already, the Umeh-led faction has filed a motion for an order staying the execution of the judgment pending the hearing and determination of their appeal. The faction through its lawyer, Patrick Ikwueto, has applied for an order of injunction restraining the Okwu-led faction from interfering in the leadership and management of APGA in any manner whatsoever, including by way of dealing with INEC as officers of APGA and or from parading themselves as the validly elected national officers of the party, pending the outcome of the appeal they have lodged.
He argued that the High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit and make orders that would affect and curtail the constitutional and inherent rights of APGA, which he said, was at no time joined as a party in the matter. In the four grounds of the appeal, he contended that the Justice Abdul-Kafarati, erred in law and thereby occasioned a miscarriage of justice when it refused to uphold the preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.
However, Okwu had instituted a suit last August against Umeh and Shinkafi asking the court to order them to vacate their offices. He accused them of staying beyond the tenure approved by the party’s constitution. In the suit FHC/ABJ/CS/563/2103, Okwu contended that Umeh was not elected in accordance with Article 18 (4) of its constitution, while Shinkafi had spent more than two terms of eight years required by the party’s constitution.