Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed May 14, 2018, for judgment on the suit challenging the tenure elongation of the National Working Committee (NWC ) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) headed by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
Justice Dimgba announced the above date shortly after counsel to parties in the suit adopted and argued their written addresses.
Following the decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC at its meeting of February 27 to extend the tenure of members of the party’s NWC for another one year, some members of the party had approached the court to challenge the decision.
The aggrieved members led by Ademorin Aliu Kioye had on March 15, 2018, secured 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 officers of the party.
Respondents in the suit include the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC, the National Chairman of APC, Oyegun, and the National Organising Secretary of the party, Senator Osita Izunaso.
When the matter was called yesterday, Ahmed Raji (SAN), counsel to the plaintiff, informed the court that the matter was for hearing.
He argued that the matter borders around section 223 of the constitution which fixes the tenure of elected officials of political parties to a maximum of four years.
Raji said one of the questions the court should answer is whether the provision of 223 of the constitution as regards tenure of political parties’ officials is mandatory.
“We have argued that section 223 of the constitution is mandatory and the philosophy is to ensure political parties conduct their affairs in a democratic way because what you don’t have you cannot give,” he submitted.
He argued further that the NEC decision to unilaterally extend the tenure of the NWC was contrary to section 223 of the constitution, and urged the court to avoid any interpretation that would render it useless.
Raji also dismissed claim by the defendants that the issue is a domestic affairs of the APC and one that does not require the intervention of the court.
Responding, the first defendant (INEC) said it remains neutral in the suit, but will abide by whatever decision reached by the court.
Other defendants, however, opposed the motion, and urged the court to dismiss the suit for being premature.
According to Joseph Daudu SAN, counsel to the 2nd defendant, the plaintiffs’ suit is based on speculation as the NEC of the APC did not breach the party’s constitution or section 223 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He added that the party itself is making efforts to resolve the issue.
“If there is a breach of the party’s constitution then the court can be invited. Politicians should be allowed to do their job inasmuch as it is legal and within the ambit of the law,” he said.
Similarly, Akin Olujimi SAN, counsel to the APC Chairman, Oyegun, while aligning himself with the submission of the 2nd defendant, urged the court not to engage in speculation.
“What they are asking the court is to engage in speculation. Instead of the resolution, they came with newspaper reports which cannot prove anything,” he submitted.
He further submitted that there is no cause of action for the suit, and urged the court to dismiss it.
Also, counsel to the 4th defendant, Ogwu Onoja (SAN), who completely adopted the submission of both Daudu and Olujimi, told the court that his client was not supposed to be part of the suit.
He said the issue involving the 4th defendant is whether he can contest election and still come back as a member of the executive committee.
Onoja argued that article 31 of the party’s constitution allows a member of the executive to contest election without resigning from office.
After taking submissions of counsel in the matter, Justice Dimgba adjourned till May 14, 2018, for judgment.