APC tenure elongation dispute: court fixes May 14 for judgment

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Chief John Odigie-Oyegun
Chief John Odigie Oyegun

The Federal High Court Abuja has fixed May 14 to deliver judgment in a suit seeking to void the one-year tenure extension that was granted to the National Working Committee (NWC), of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The plaintiff, Mr Ademorin Kuye led some other members of the party to file the suit after the party extended the tenure of NWC by one year.

The defendants are, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC and its National Chairman, Mr John Oyegun and the National Organising Secretary, Sen. Osita Izunaso.

The plaintiffs on March 15, obtained an ex parte order directing the defendants to show cause why members of the NWC of the APC should not be barred from parading themselves as national officials of the party.

When the matter was called on Monday, counsel to Kuye, Mr Ahmed Raji (SAN), told the court that they were in court to seek an interpretation to Section 223 of the 1999 Constitution.

He said they wanted an interpretation as to whether the section was mandatory or a mere dead letter of the law.

“We have argued that Section 223 is mandatory and the philosophy behind it is to ensure that political parties conduct their affairs in a democratic manner.

“Therefore by whatever decision can a political party extend tenure especially almost half way to the end of the tenure where there is no emergency.”

He argued that if there was an emergency such as the country was at war, then it could be considered.

He, however, maintained that there was no such emergency currently in the country to warrant such an action.

He urged the court to avoid an interpretation that would render Section 223 of the constitution useless adding that the four years stipulated for a tenure, should be adhered to.

He disagreed with the defendants that the matter was a domestic affair of the party and internal remedies had not been exhausted.

According to him, the highest organ of the party, the National Working Committee, (NEC), wants to overrule the president, that cannot be a domestic affair.

Counsel to INEC, Mr Idris Yakubu said that the commission had no position in the matter and was bound by the decision of the court.

APC’s counsel, Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it was premature as it was filed based on fear, speculations and political calculations.

“The plaintiff has said that their case resolves around Section 223, with profound respect, it does not, because their case is not about interpretation of Section 223.

“This is because that section is clear and straight forward as to the kind of constitution a political party must posses before coming into existence and Article 17 of the party’s constitution already satisfies that.”

According to Daudu, what they are asking the court to do has not arisen yet as there is no instrument before the court showing that there is an elongation.

Daudu argued that besides the fact that the plaintiff lacked “locus standi”, the case was a demonstration of why the court should not interfere since the party was trying to self resolve the issue.

“These kind of cases should be left to the political parties and the court can only come in if there is a clear breach of the party constitution, but there has been no breech in this case.

“Politicians must be allowed to do their thing so long as it is legal and falls within the ambits of the law.”

Mr Akin Olujimi (SAN), counsel to Oyegun aligned himself with the submissions of Daudu and prayed the court to dismiss the suit.

Olujimi further argued that the resolution which the plaintiff, (Kuye) alleged was reached by the NEC of APC on Feb. 27 was the foundation of the suit but that the said resolution was not placed before the court.

“What they are asking the court to do is to engage in speculation and the court cannot engage in speculation.

“Instead of that resolution which they alleged, they have come up with newspaper reports which this court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court has held in several cases that cannot prove anything.”

According to Olujimi, their case is founded on tenure elongation but there is nothing like that before the court.

On his part, Mr James Onoja (SAN) counsel to Izunaso, contended that his client was not supposed to be a party to the suit since the case around his client was that of a waiver and not tenure elongation.

Onoja who filed a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the suit also urged the court to dismiss it.

The trial judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba fixed May 14 to deliver judgment.

(NAN)