Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday dismissed the suit challenging the tenure elongation of the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, who dismissed the suit in two separate judgments on the matter, held that the suits had become hypothetical and academic, as the APC had reversed the decision to extend the tenures of the NWC.
Dimgba said: “Having read and carefully examined all the attachments to the suit, I hold that there was an attempt to extend the tenure of members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) due to expire on June 30, 2018, for another one year.”
Dimgba held that the resolution of the NEC of the part, in its meeting held on February 27, 2018, was a case of party organ trying to extend its tenure, which he noted was different from the case of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where it was the National Convention of the party that set up the Caretaker Committee.
He said if the attempt to extend the tenure of the Odigie-Oyegun-led executive committee of the APC had matured, it would have amounted to a violation of the constitution of the party and that of the country.
The judge recalled that the party had commenced congresses to elect its officials at wards and local government Â levels and had also slated June to hold its national convention to elect officials of the party at the national level.
A member of the party in Imo State, Okere Uzochukwu, had in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/219/2018 and filed on March 2, 2018, challenged the moves to extend the tenure of the Odigie-Oyegun-led executive of the party.
The second suit, challenging the decision to extend the tenure of the Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC of the APC was filed by some aggrieved members of the party, led by Ademorin Aliu Kioye.
The plaintiffs 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, National Chairman of APC, Chief Odigie-Oyegun and the National Organising Secretary of the party, Senator Osita Izunaso.
Ahmed Raji (SAN), representing the plaintiff, had informed the court that the matter borders on Section 223 of the constitution which fixes the tenure of elected officials of political parties to a maximum of four years.
He said one of the questions the court should answer is whether the provision of Section 223 of the constitution, as regards tenure of political parties’ officials is mandatory.
He argued further that the NEC’s 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 the 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.
According to him, if the NEC of the party can single-handedly extend the tenure of party officials, it will pose a bad precedent for democracy in the country and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs in the originating summons.
Responding, the first defendant (INEC) said it remains neutral in the suit but will abide by whatever decision reached by the court.
According to Joseph Daudu (SAN), counsel to the second defendant, the plaintiffs’ suit is based on speculation as the NEC of the APC did not breach the party’s constitution nor 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.
In urging the court to dismiss the suit, Daudu said the plaintiffs did not provide any instrument showing that before the end of the tenure of the NWC, there is an extension.
Similarly, Akin Olujimi (SAN), counsel to the APC Chairman, Odigie-Oyegun, while aligning himself with the submission of the second 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.
Olujimi further submitted that there is no cause of action for the suit and urged the court to dismiss it.
In the same vein, Ogwu Onoja (SAN), counsel to the fourth defendant 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 fourth 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.