By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Efforts by the Chief Martin Agbaso-led faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), to assume leadership of the party, yesterday suffered another setback as the apex court affirmed Chief Victor Oye as the genuine National Chairman of the party.
A five man panel of the apex court in dismissing the appeal filed by Chief Agbaso-led faction, held that it lacked merit, and consequently affirmed the decision of the lower court.
The Supreme Court, in a lead judgment delivered by Justice Sidi Bage, upheld the decision of the Enugu division of the Court of Appeal, which had on August 16, 2017, vacated the order of mandamus that directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to relate with and recognise Agbaso as the authentic National Chairman of APGA.
Similarly, the panel dismissed a second leg of the appeal marked SC/717/2017, which was filed by the Deputy Chairman of APGA in Enugu State, Mr. Mike Alioke.
The court said its decision to affirm the two appellate court judgements that were delivered on August 15 and 16, 2017, with respect to Aliokeâ€™s appeal, was based â€œon need to do substantial justice without delving into technicalitiesâ€.
Justice Bage said the court was duty bound to look beyond â€œsome technical blundersâ€ and determine the case on its merit.
â€œThe issues are resolved in favour of the 1st Respondentâ€, he held.
The Agbaso-led faction had in the appeal marked SC/718/2017, which was filed in the name of APGA, prayed the apex court to reinstate the order of a High Court of Enugu State which compelled INEC to recognise and relate with them as leadership of APGA.
The trial Court had on May 22, 2017, issued an order of mandamus compelling INEC, Police and other authorities, to recognise Agbaso as the National Chairman of the party.
The order followed a motion that was filed by Alioke, who asked the court to direct INEC and Police to recognise a resolution by stakeholders of the party to appoint Agbaso as acting National Chairman in the face of what was claimed as vacancy in the office.
Some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party had in October 2016, announced the suspension of Oye from the party for alleged gross misconduct.
Oye was suspended alongside the Deputy National Chairman (North), Alhaji Abubakar Adamu and the Deputy National Chairman (South), Chief Uche Okogbuo, while Mr. Nwabueze Okafor (now late), was appointed as interim National Chairman.
The late Okafor was the Vice Chairman of APGA in the South East, before he was chosen to replace Oye, a resolution that factionalised the party.
In the wake of fresh crisis that erupted upon Okaforâ€™s death, Alioke, in the motion he filed before the Enugu High Court, insisted that an order was necessary on the police to avoid a breakdown of law and order in the party.
However, the order of mandamus, which was accordingly issued by the high court, was vigorously contested at the Court of Appeal in Enugu.
Oye eventually persuaded the court to set-aside the order that made INEC and Police to recognise the Agbaso-led faction.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeal, Agbaso and his group approached the Supreme Court, contending that Oye was not part of the matter at the lower court and as such, should not benefit from the judgment without firstly securing a leave of appeal.
The appellants maintained that Oye who entered the matter at the appellate court level, as an interested party, was legally required to seek and obtain leave of court before he could validly lodge an appeal to challenge the order of mandamus on INEC.
They stressed that Oye only obtained the leave when his case was already pending at the Court of Appeal.
Their argument was however dismissed by the Supreme Court which described it as placing reliance on technicalities.
Other members of the panel who agreed with the lead judgment include Justices Rhodes Bode-Vivour, Mary Odili, Iyang Okoro and Amiru Sanusi.