Fresh Crisis Looms as APC NEC Plans to Amend Party’s Constitution

  •   Stakeholders warn against illegal amendment 
  •   Demand conduct of national convention, congresses
  •   Lagos chapter ready to challenge move in court

Gboyega Akinsanmi

Fresh crisis may be looming in the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the national leadership is alleged to have perfected plans to amend the party’s constitution at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting slated for this month, in order to validate the tenure extension of its principal officers at all levels.

Consequently, some concerned leaders of the ruling party have vowed to reject the planned amendment, which according to them violates Article 13(3-4) of the APC Constitution and Section 223(1-2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

APC, at its last NEC meeting on February 27, had announced a 12-month extension for its elected and appointed executives at all levels of the party.

Citing Article 13 of the APC constitution, which empowers the NEC to carry out the functions of the convention, the party said NEC decided to extend the tenure of the current NWC members and other executive committees at various levels for another twelve months, starting from June 30, 2018.

It said the extension was done to prevent the likelihood of discord that might arise from a convention of the party in the run up to the 2019 elections.

But this was immediately challenged by the Zamfara State governor and other leaders of the party, who said the decision taken at the last NEC meeting was only a “mere expression of interest”.

He had cautioned that the tenure extension could only be achieved through an amendment of the party’s constitution by the National Convention of the APC.

However, one of the concerned leaders yesterday disclosed the plan to amend the party’s constitution at the next NEC meeting in an interview he granted THISDAY in confidence, warning against the decision, which he said will promote the reign of illegality and impunity in the ranks of the APC.

He also faulted the process by which the National Working Committee (NWC) under the chairmanship of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun had set up the Constitution Amendment Committee led by the National Legal Adviser of the APC, Mr. Muiz Banire on January 25, 2017, noting that the process did not comply with Article 13(3-4) of the party’s constitution.

Article 13(4) of the APC Constitution empowers the NWC “to establish ad-hoc and/or standing committees of the party and appoint members to such committees”.

While Article 13(3) empowers the NEC “to ratify the type, nature and membership of the ad-hoc and/or standing committees to be set up by the National Working Committee”, a condition the source said the party leadership did not comply with.

Contingent on these provisions, the APC leader faulted the process that set up the constitution amendment committee in January last year, noting that the NWC constituted the committee without NEC’s ratification as provided in Article 13(3).

The APC leader further disclosed that the constitution amendment committee was meant to have submitted its report to the NEC meeting slated for October 31, 2017 but the meeting was postponed.

As a result, the same constitution amendment report was slated for presentation at the February 27 NEC meeting of the party, but it was not considered. Instead, the party went ahead to announce the tenure extension for all its executives.

He also pointed out that it was after the presidency had realised the illegality of the tenure extension that the NEC had granted the national and state officials, that a plan was hatched to table the report at the next meeting slated for this month.

The goal, he said, is to allow the NEC exercise the power of National Convention and amend the APC Constitution to validate the tenure extension.

He noted that the rationale behind the constitution amendment is to correct the flawed decision of the NEC “to extend the tenure of the APC national chairman and other national and state executives by 12 months”.

After President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the APC leadership to start preparing for the convention and congresses at the last National Caucus meeting of the party, the APC source alleged that it was the Ondo State governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu who had misadvised the presidency, informing it that the NEC could exercise the power of the convention to extend the tenure of the principal officers.

Already, he noted that the presidency “has realised the illegality of the tenure extension”.

“That is why the national leadership is planning to convene another NEC meeting. The meeting may hold between 10 and 15 days from now. The national officials want to use the meeting to correct their errors,” he added.

He also disclosed that the agenda of the meeting is first to tell the world that the tenure of the APC national chairman and other executives was not extended as reported in the media.

“The plan is to tell the world that the NEC only issued a notice of extension and not an extension,” he explained

He also warned that the move by the national leadership of the party would be at variance with Section 223(1-2) of the 1999 Constitution, which according to him, states clearly the processes, procedures and requirements for the emergence of political party officials.

Section 223(1) states that the constitution and rules of a political party “shall provide for a periodical election on a democratic basis of the principal officers and members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party…”

Section 223(2) further states: “The election of the officers or members of the executive committee of a political party shall be deemed to be periodical only if it is made at regular intervals not exceeding four years.”

Based on these provisions, the APC leader argued that the NEC lacks the power to amend the APC Constitution.

“The power to amend the party’s constitution can only be exercised by the National Convention. Even if the NEC can exercise the party’s constitution, it cannot amend it to deviate from the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

“Section 223(1-2) of the 1999 Constitution is clear about the conduct of national conventions and congresses. The section states clearly how the officials of parties at all levels can emerge at the end of their tenure.

“It never made provisions for tenure extension. Also, it does not give any organ of the party – except at the National Convention – the power to amend the constitution,” he said,

He also recalled that it was this kind of impunity and lawlessness that destroyed the People Democratic Party (PDP). “We are all witness to the fall of the PDP,” he said, warning that some APC leaders were already walking on the path of destruction.

“The implication is huge for the future of the APC. First, it is a dangerous precedent for a party that promised change. Second, any person produced from that process can be removed if challenged at the court.

“Besides, opposition parties can take advantage of this to challenge the APC in court after the general election. So, the mandate of any political official produced from this process will be under threat,” he warned.

Another party source who spoke on the issue also confirmed that there was a plan to amend the party’s constitution at the next NEC meeting, but said should the national leadership of the party go ahead with the plan, the Lagos chapter of the APC was prepared to go to court to challenge the validity of the decision.

According to him, “The move to amend the constitution at the NEC meeting can lead to a series of litigations and crises. I am aware that the Lagos APC is ready to go to court should the NEC amend the constitution and not the National Convention of the party.”

When he was reminded that Article 13 of the APC Constitution empowers the NEC to carry out the functions of the convention, he said: “Even if we have to consider Article 13 of the constitution, it is still debatable if NEC can assume the power of the National Convention or whether it can legally carry out an amendment of the constitution.”