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Panic grips APC over legal battles after supreme court decision on Ondo

Panic grips APC over legal battles after supreme court decision on Ondo
July 29
10:39 2021

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has called for an “emergency press conference” following the supreme court’s judgment on the Ondo state governorship election.

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This is likely an indication that an emergency meeting has been held by the party’s executive.

In the invitation sent to journalists on Thursday, Edegbe Odemwingie, assistant press director of the APC, said “emergency press conference holding today at the APC national secretariat by 9 am prompt”.

The supreme court in its judgment on Wednesday affirmed the election of Rotimi Akeredolu as Ondo state governor.

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But what some did not anticipate was that Akeredolu will win by a narrow split decision of 4:3 in the seven-man panel of justices.

JEGEDE’S CASE

Eyitayo Jegede, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the party itself had lost their petition against Akeredolu and the APC at the election petition tribunal.

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The tribunal dismissed the joint petition, Jegede and the PDP lodged against the declaration of Akeredolu of the APC as the valid winner of the Ondo gubernatorial contest.

Jegede and the PDP had in their case, queried the legal validity of Akeredolu’s nomination by the national caretaker committee of the APC headed by Mai Mala Buni, Yobe governor.

They specifically asked the court to determine whether Buni, as a sitting governor, could double as national chairman of the APC to sign Akeredolu’s nomination form for the governorship election.

According to section 183 of the Nigerian constitution, “the governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever”.

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However, Theresa Orji-Abadua who led the appeal court panel dismissed their case.

Although the appellate court acknowledged that the issues raised by the appellants had constitutional implications, they, however, failed to join Buni as a party in the matter.

SUPREME COURT

The appellants further appealed to the apex court seeking to determine whether it was of necessity to join Buni in the suit considering the immunity provided for governors in section 308 of the 1999 constitution.

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In their split judgement, four members of the apex court panel led by Emmanuel Agim agreed that the non-joinder of Buni rendered the appeal incompetent.

But three other justices led by Mary Peter-Odili, had a contrary view.

The three justices said since the APC, for which Buni acted, was a party in the case, there was no need to include him as a necessary party in the appeal against Akeredolu.

IMPLICATION OF THE JUDGMENT ON THE APC CONGRESS

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Already, the APC has approved the schedule for its 2021 congresses in all states of the country and the federal capital territory (FCT). The congress is where the party elects its wards, local governments and states officials.

The caretaker extraordinary convention planning committee (CECPC) is headed by Buni.

Going by the just delivered judgment, any election done by the Buni-led committee can be challenged in a competent court of law by opposition parties.

What this means going forward is that any other person affected by the actions of the Buni-led committee will not fail to join him as a party in any subsequent case in court. This includes future elections in any part of the country and all the APC congresses that are about to take place.

It is of note to state that Article 17 (iv) of the APC constitution states that “no officer in any organ of the Party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently”.

Abubakar Sani Bello, Niger state governor, and Isiaka Oyetola, Osun governor, are members of the Buni-led caretaker committee.

KEYAMO ASKS PARTY TO SACK BUNI

In a leaked letter to the party, Festus Keyamo, minister of state for labour and employment, asked the party to immediately suspend the planned congress as it will be an exercise in futility.

He said: “The supreme court has just weaponised all those that would be aggrieved by the APC congresses to proceed to court to challenge the competence of the Buni-led CECPC to organise the congresses and national convention. The judiciary will subsequently destroy the entire structure of the Party from bottom to top.”

Keyamo advised that to avoid a wave of legal battles, the APC has the option of excluding not only Buni, but anyone holding any executive position in any government establishment from the caretaker extraordinary convention planning committee (CECPC) as stipulated in Article 17 of the party’s constitution.

“Under Article 25 of the APC Constitution, it is the national chairman or two-thirds of members of NEC that can summon an NEC meeting. Since we cannot vouch for the legality of any NEC meeting summoned by Mai Mala now, the safest is to get two-third of NEC members to sign an Invitation to summon a NEC meeting where the CECPC would be reconstituted and our party would be safe,” the senior advocate said.

“Alternatively, the board of trustees of the party, which includes Mr President, can be activated to organise a national convention in line with Article 13 of the APC Constitution where it is given such powers.

“Those powers can be delegated at the meeting to a committee in line with the APC Constitution which will run the party and plan the convention. The new exco can then plan for congresses.”

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