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APC risks implosion as courts, stakeholders struggle to rescue Oshiomhole

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OBIORA IFOH, Abuja

The Court of Appeal in Abuja has halted the suspension of Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress.

Justice Danlami Senchi of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, had on March 4, 2020, made an order suspending Oshiomhole.

But in a bench ruling delivered by a three-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Abubakar Yahaya, on Monday, ordered a stay of execution of the FCT High Court’s order.

The court ruled that the order would remain binding pending the hearing of Oshiomhole’s motion for interlocutory injunction slated for Friday.

The panel also unanimously restrained the respondents including the Police and the Department of State Services from further giving effect to the suspension order.

Justice Yahaya made the order shortly after Oshiomhole’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), moved an ex parte application seeking an order for stay of execution of the lower court’s order on Monday.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party is scheduled for Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at the Party’s National Secretariat by 12 noon.

The meeting to be chaired by Oshiomhole, according to the National Publicity secretary, Lanre Issa Onilu, is expected to be attended by all members as important matters concerning the party will be considered and deliberated at the meeting.

The acting National Secretary, Victor Giadom, in a telephone chat with Daily Champion, said the proposed NEC was called off because of the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said, “The NEC meeting has been postponed indefinitely at the appropriate time, the public and members of the NEC will be informed on the new date but as of today, we are in agreement with the president that the NEC meeting has been postponed.”

On the story trending in the social media that he will not step aside, he said, “that is the product of mischief makers, who did not come from me. Everybody has to respect the intervention of the President. I have not been served yet, I am talking to you as the acting national secretary.”

Earlier, before the court reconvened to reverse itself, the fate of the embattled Oshiomhole was handing in the balance as the last effort to halt his premeditated sack was dashed on Monday, as the Court of Appeal deferred hearing on the appeals against his suspension by the party.

Oshiomhole faces dethronement this Tuesday at the National Executive Committee meeting called by a faction of the leadership against his continuous stay as party chairman.

Though two separate appeals marked CA/A/187/2020 and CA/A/188/2020, which Oshiomhole lodged to challenge the interim injunction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory that suspended him from office on March 4, were slated on the cause list, however, the appellate failed to sit on the case.

A three-man panel of Justices of the court led by Justice Stephen Adah, had after  concluded hearing on other appeals on the cause list, told Oshiomhole’s  lawyers that another panel would return to hear his appeal.

However, about five minutes after the Justice Adah-led panel retired to their chambers, a clerk of the appellate court came back and informed all the parties that the appeal would be heard at a later date.

The court clerk said the return date would be duly communicated to the parties.

Oshiomhole, who was visibly displeased with the development, stormed out of the courtroom in the company of a handful of his supporters that included a governorship aspirant of the APC in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

It will be recalled that Oshiomhole had in his four-ground of appeal, maintained that only the NWC or the NEC of APC could suspended him from office.

Oshiomhole, contended that the Abuja High Court lacked the powers to temporarily suspend him as the National Chairman of the APC.

“The learned trial court erred in law and arrived at a wrong conclusion which occasioned a miscarriage of justice when at the interlocutory stage it decided the question that the Appellant in the performance of his duties as National Chairman of the 2nd Appellant would interfere with the 1st to 6th Respondents’ membership rights of the 2nd Appellant.

“The issue of the1st Appellant’s performance of the 1st Appellant’s duties of National Chairman of the 2nd Appellant is a matter which arises from the substantive issues for determination and claim and ought not to be determined at the interlocutory stage during the determination of the Motion for interlocutory injunction”, he said.

Oshiomhole further said, “The learned trial court erred in law and arrived at a wrong conclusion which occasioned a miscarriage of justice when after ordering the filing of pleading, it immediately set down Motion for interlocutory injunction for hearing in the absence of pleadings.

“The trial court determined the Motion for interlocutory injunction, without recourse to triable issues which ought to have been discerned from pleadings”.

In ground-three of the appeal, he argued that: “The learned trial court erred in law and arrived at a wrong conclusion which occasioned a miscarriage of justice when it held that the 1st to 6th Respondents had disclosed a legal right that required to be protected by the grant of the interlocutory injunction.

“The 1st to 6th Respondents disclosed no right enshrined in the 2nd Appellant’s constitution, entitling a member of the 2ndAppellant to the suspension of the National Chairman of the 2nd Appellant, without recourse to the National Working Committee and National Executive Council of the 2nd Appellant”.

The suspended APC Chairman also argued that the trial court “erred in law and arrived at a wrong conclusion which occasioned a miscarriage of justice when in deciding the balance of convenience it held that the disruption capable of being occasioned by the grant of the interlocutory injunction outweighed the inconvenience to be suffered by the 1st to 6th Respondents”.

He, therefore, sought for an order allowing the appeal and setting aside the interlocutory injunction suspending him as the National Chairman of the APC.

The Inspector General of the Police and the State Security Service were cited as the 7th and 8th Respondents in the appeal.

Justice Danlami Senchi of the FCT high court at Jabi had in a ruling on March 4, ordered Oshiomhole to stop parading himself as the National Chairman of the APC, pending the determination of a substantive suit that was brought against him by six aggrieved members of the party.

The plaintiffs, Mustapha Salihu, Anslem Ojezua, Alhaji Sani Gomna, Oshawo Steven, Hon. Fani Wabulari and Evang. Princewill Ejogharado, had in their suit marked FCT/HC/CV/837/2020, insisted that Oshiomhole had no right to continue to perform the duties of the National Chairman of the APC, having been suspended as a member of the party from his Etsako ward 10, in Edo State.

They argued that since his suspension remained extant, his rights as a member of the party had abated.

Though the court fixed April 7 to hear the substantive matter, it however agreed with the plaintiffs, noting that Oshiomhole failed to appeal against his suspension from the party.

Justice Senchi, held that the 2nd Respondent (APC), wrongfully retained Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the party in view of the affidavit evidence before the court.

Consequently, aside temporarily suspending him from office, the trial judge directed the party to stop acknowledging Oshiomhole as its National Chairman, adding that he should be denied access to the party’s Secretariat.

Justice Senchi warned that political parties must be bound by their constitution.

In a related development, a Sokoto High Court on Tuesday has restrained the Party from appointing or electing Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu or any other person into the NWC.

In the Motion Exparte dated March 13, 2020 and filed before Justice Mohammed Mohammed, the plaintiff, Barr. Inuwa Abdulkadir , who is the suspended National Vice Chairman of the APC for the Northwest zone sought an order of the court to restrain the APC from appointing Issa-Onilu into any substantive position.

Joined in the suit are the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu and the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC.

Issa-Onilu is currently the National Publicity Secretary of the party, but Abdulkadir has been in court faulting the appointment which he said was not properly done.

He urged the court to grant “an order of interim injunction, restraining the defendants or any other organ of the 1st defendant from appointing or electing the 2nd defendant or any member of the 1st defendant in substantive capacity or whatsoever save and except through a National Convention in accordance with the Constitution of the 1st defendant pending the hearing and determination of motion on notice no SS/M. 106/2020 now pending before this court.

“An order of interim injunction, restraining the defendants or any other organ of the 1st defendant except the National Convention from appointing, electing or ratifying the appointment of the 2nd defendant or any member of the 1st defendant into the National Executive Committee except in compliance with the 1st defendant’s constitution as well as in accordance with the provision of section 233 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) pending the hearing and determination of motion on notice no SS/M. 106/2020 now before this court”.

In granting the prayers, the court ordered: “In view of the foregoing, it is my humble opinion that this application has merit and ought to be granted. Accordingly prayers 1 and 2 are hereby granted”.

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