- Meets Buhari
- He remains suspended, says APC vice chairman, North-east
- Conflicting court orders bizarre, say SANs
Davidson Iriekpen in Lagos, Omololu Ogunmade and Alex Enumah in Abuja
Embattled National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday got a reprieve as a Federal High Court in Kano issued an interim order halting his suspension as the chairman of the ruling party.
Oshiomhole also thursday declared that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, which restrained him from further parading himself as the national chairman of the APC on Wednesday had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
He said aside the decision of the Federal High Court, Kano which yesterday overrode the decision of the FCT court, he had been properly advised by his lawyer that the latter court lacked the capacity to issue the order it made.
But in a swift reaction, a member of the National Working Committee (NWC) and Vice Chairman (North-east), Mr. Mustapha Salihu, insisted that Oshiomhole remains suspended.
This is coming as some senior lawyers have expressed worries over the way and manner courts of coordinate jurisdiction give orders that seem to be in conflict with one another, describing the development as not only confusing but bizarre.
At its sitting thursday, Justice Lewis Allagoa of the Federal High Court in Kano, asked parties involved to “maintain the status quo ante bellum (the situation before the current state)” pending the court’s final decision.
The judge gave the ruling following an application by one Aliyu Muhammadu Rabiu praying the court to stop the APC and INEC from effecting Oshiomhole’s suspension.
The application specifically asked the court to stop those involved in the matter from giving effect to the resolution of the APC helmsman’s ward to suspend him in 2019.
The judge directed that, “all the parties to this suit to maintain the status quo ante pending the hearing and disposal of the motion on notice filed herein that is, an order directing the 1st ,3rd ,4th and 5th defendants either by themselves, servants, assigns it any officer howsoever described and by whatever name called from giving effect to the purported resolution of the Ward 10, Etsako West local government area of 2nd November of the 1st respondent pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
“That the 3rd defendant is restrained from dealing, communicating or howsoever recognising any person other than the 2nd defendant as the national chairman of the 1st defendant for any party business or carrying out any duties vested in the commission by the Electoral Act.”
The judge also ordered that the defendants in the suit shall enter appearance and file their process in defence of this suit abridged to seven days, while also adjourning the matter to 8th April, 2020 for hearing.
Immediately the court judgment was delivered, Oshiomhole hurriedly arranged for press conference which was later cancelled because he was summoned from the Villa.
The chairman while rushing out to answer the president’s call told journalists not to look at him with pity.
“Are you looking at me with pity?’ Oshiomhole asked journalists.
Apart from the APC and police, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Department of State Services (DSS) were joined as defendants in the Kano suit.
The court adjourned the case to April 8, 2020 for hearing and gave the defendants seven days to enter appearance and file their processes in defence of the suit.
While the interim order does not relate to Oshiomhole’s suspension by a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja on Wednesday, it rubs off on it given that the court’s judgment was based on Oshiomhole’s suspension by his ward.
The Abuja court had said it was wrong for him to remain at the helm of affairs after his suspension by the state chapter of the party.
The Edo State chapter of the APC suspended Oshiomhole — who has been at daggers drawn with Governor Godwin Obaseki.
The APC chairman in Edo, Mr. Anselm Ojezua, had said Oshiomhole was suspended because of “his role” in the crisis rocking the state chapter of the party.
FCT High Court Has No Jurisdiction to Remove Me, Says Oshiomhole
Meanwhile, Oshiomhole yesterday argued that the FCT High court had no powers to remove him.
Oshiomhole, who made this claim while briefing journalists in the State House after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, also dismissed as untrue the claim that he was suspended by his ward.
He insisted that having joined the Department of State Service (DSS), the Nigeria Police and the APC which are federal bodies in the suit, an FCT High Court that is not a federal high court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
He also claimed that as the national chairman of the party, he couldn’t have been suspended by the ward because he is not an officer of his ward and hence, the ward has no power to suspend him.
He also said that the judge of the FCT High Court who barred him from parading himself as the party’s national chairman twisted a vote of confidence passed on him by the ward to imply a vote of no confidence.
Oshiomhole said that his opponents, including the North-east Vice-Chairman, Salihu, who was the mastermind of the move leading to the interlocutory injunction of the FCT High Court, also ensured the suit was adjourned to April 7, so that they could have enough time to perpetrate their mischief.
He said the injunction from a Kano Federal High Court had rendered the interlocutory injunction useless, adding that only the FCT High Court judge could explain how he came about his initial injunction.
He said: “I was taken back because in the same suit they joined the APC, the police as the DSS. Our lawyers told me that in law, when you sue a federal agency, FCT High Court has no jurisdiction to entertain it.
“Number two, the purported suspension of my person by my ward, first, it is not even true, and I am going to give you a document to that effect so that you can form your opinion. Number three; I am not an officer of my ward. I am the national chairman of my party, elected at a national convention by over 7,000 delegates.
“So, how could nine persons sit down somewhere and purport that they have removed a national chairman, and the court, contrary to all logic, all judicial precedence found comfort in granting an interlocutory order to stop me from functioning pending when the matter is determined.
“In other words, he has given the order without the facts being laid before him and in the process, adjourned the case to 7th of April. The calculations are clear that between now and April 7th, my opponents in the system would have had ample time to do all the mischievous plans they have in place to destabilise the APC because some of them have membership of more than one political party.”
According to him, forces that are after him, who have no capacity to deliver victories at councillorship elections meet at night to get rid of him because they see him as a threat and so want to embarrass him.
He claimed that unlike those who could not deliver a councillorship position, he had delivered victories to the party in his unit, ward, local government, federal constituencies and senatorial district of his state.
He said forces that are after his head meet in ministers’ houses in the night, lamenting that the governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who he said was the person he helped to power wants to “chop off his neck.”
Obaseki, he said, was jubilating on Wednesday when the injunction was given.
“Let me also say that those behind this plot, the hands you saw which includes as you saw yesterday, you saw the Edo State governor and his people jubilating but that is the irony of life; that you will help give birth to a child and the child looks for cutlass to chop off your neck. It has happened in history. It has happened in this country so I won’t be the only person,” he lamented.
Oshiomhole also alleged that some of the forces, who want to get rid of him share memberships of other political parties, adding that they only want to weaken the institution by producing a strong leader, recalling the comment of a former United States President, Barrack Obama, that Africa doesn’t need strong leaders but strong institutions.
“You see, there is an issue in this country. People want strong leadership. The average Nigerian wants to have a strong leader for Nigeria. They want to have strong leaders in various institutions. They want institutions that are strong enough that cannot be controlled by individuals.
“That was why President Obama said what Africa needs are strong institutions, not strong persons. Unfortunately, very few sections of our elite want to weaken institutions so that they can control them and if you refuse to oblige them the misuse of your institution, then they go for your jugular. That is the only thing,” he said.
He admitted that he might have made some mistakes because of the position he occupies, adding, however, that he had the capacity to correct such mistakes because they were not deliberate.
“I am convinced that I have done my very best. Mistakes would have been made and I want to see the one person who will say he has never made mistakes. But if there are mistakes of the head, we have the capacity to correct mistakes of the head. But I know I have not set out to make the mistakes of the heart,” he said.
The embattled party chairman, who said he had given his all to the party including sacrificing his family wellbeing in the interest of the party, pointed out that whenever the party records a victory, his opponents don’t give him credit but when it loses, he’s accused as the architect.
However, he said he was proud that he had secured the backing of the majority of both the leaders and members of the party, adding that since God is with him, nobody can pull him down.
He Remains suspended, Says North-east Vice Chairman
Responding to the court ruling, Salihu said from his knowledge of law that two courts of coordinate jurisdiction cannot seat on appeal on an order or judgment given by each other.
According to him, “a Federal High Court cannot seat on appeal on FCT High Court. The only court that has the jurisdiction to seat on appeal is the Court of Appeal. In this case and the court order of the FCT high court was served yesterday (Wednesday). Most of you have the copy of the order and it is an elementary law that first in time prevails. That of Abuja High court came earlier and we seek for interlocutory injunction and there is an affidavit of urgency which seek to prevent certain kinds of mischief which we prayed that the court should help prevent which they did so.
“As you can see, we are in the secretariat and we are running the affairs of the party. So, the suspension still prevails until the hearing of the matter or if there is any contrary order from the Court of Appeal.”
Reacting to the announcement of some party officers, which was made on Wednesday, Salihu described the decision as laughable, pathetic and disturbing.
The vice chairman insisted that NWC did not approve any of the names as claimed, adding that at the meeting held on the 14th of January ended abruptly because some members of the NWC were allegedly trying to perpetrate illegality on the position of National Secretary, noting that the matter of the other positions were not discussed.
Salihu stated: “But seeing that he has been suspended, he now had to bring out that information, I don’t think it is a civil matter, I think our lawyers are looking at it because it is a criminal matter. I am a working committee member and I was not in the meeting, where is the minutes of the meeting, where was it held? And how do we approve a nomination that is yet to come, we are not running a banana republic. This is a party and not a block industry or a motor park. Our lawyers are looking at it and if we find any criminal act we will prosecute.”
Oshiomhole Asks Appeal Court to Stay Suspension Order
In another development, Oshiomhole has asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the suspension order slammed on him on Wednesday by an Abuja High Court.
Oshiomhole in the appeal claimed that the judge of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Justice Danlami Senchi, erred in law and arrived at a wrong conclusion, which occasioned a miscarriage of justice when the court placed him on suspension at an interlocutory stage of a suit instituted against him by some aggrieved members of the party.
In the notice of appeal predicated on four grounds, Oshiomhole said that the High Court further erred in law when it decided that he, in the performance of his duties as APC national chairman would interfere in the court action filed against him by the aggrieved members.
Respondents in the appeal are: APC National Vice Chairman, North-east, Mr. Mustapha Saliu; APC Edo State Chairman, Hon. Anselm Ojezua; Alhaji Sani Gomna; Mr. Oshawo Stephen; Hon. Fani Wabulari and Evangelist Princewill Ejogharado.
The rest are the Inspector General of Police and the Department of State Services (DSS).
In the appeal filed by his counsel, Mr. Damian Dodo (SAN), Oshiomhole contended that the issue of his performance of duties as APC national chairman is a matter which arose from substantive issues for determination and claim and ought not to have been determined at the interlocutory stage of the main matter.
Among other grounds in the appeal, Oshiomhole argued that the trial judge erred in law and arrived at a wrong conclusion which occasioned a miscarriage of justice when after ordering the filing of pleadings and immediately set down motion for interlocutory injunction for hearing in the absence of pleadings.
He further faulted the suspension order against him on the grounds that the trial court determined the motion for interlocutory injunction without recourse to triable issues which ought to have been discerned from pleadings.
Justice Danlami Senchi of an Abuja High Court had on Wednesday ordered Oshiomhole to step aside as national chairman of the APC, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit seeking his removal from office as National Chairman of the ruling APC.
Justice Senchi, who gave the order in a ruling on an interlocutory injunction filed by Salihu and five others, also ordered Oshiomhole to stop parading himself as National Chairman of the APC until the issues challenging his leadership of the party is resolved.
The plaintiffs in the application filed on January 16, 2020 and argued by their lawyer, Mr. Oluwole Afolabi, had urged the court to declare Oshiomhole’s continued stay in office illegal having allegedly been suspended from the APC.
The Ward 10 Executives of the APC had late last year suspended Oshiomhole from the APC.
The suspension was ratified by the Etsako West Local Government Executive Committee and was subsequently upheld by the State Executive Committee of the Party.
As the siege to APC secretariat continued yesterday, the FCT Police Command insisted that it was a routine deployment of its men.
He, however, declined to comment on which court order the police would obey.
“Deployment of policemen to APC Secretariat is a routine deployment. It is not for any special reason.
On court orders, we do not have comments on that. We do not have issues with court orders but our deployment to APC Headquarters is routine”, Says Spokesman of FCT Police Command, Mr. Anjuguri Manza (PPRO)
Conflicting Court Orders on Oshiomhole Bizarre, Say SANs
Meanwhile, some senior lawyers have described the way and manner courts of coordinator jurisdiction give orders that seems to be in conflict with one another as not only confusing but bizarre.
Reacting to the conflicting orders emanating from the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Kano division of the Federal High Court, the senior lawyers said it is improper for a court of coordinate jurisdiction to appear to be sitting as an appellate court over the decision of another.
The senior lawyers however urged the superior court in the land to quickly intervene to avoid any form of crisis that may arise as a result of the two judgments.
“It is a curious development which must be carefully handled since both are courts of coordinate jurisdiction. No one is superior to the other and the parties in both matters are not the same and not in the same jurisdiction. The courts are also not the same”, Ahmed Raji (SAN) said.
While he noted that there is only one court of appeal that sits in divisions all over the country, he said any division of the court of appeal should quickly intervene to save the situation. ‘Meanwhile, pending such intervention, the status quo before all the disputes should prevail”, Raji said.
Another senior lawyer, Mr. John Baiyeshea (SAN), said, “What is happening is bizarre. It is abnormal for a Court of coordinate (same) jurisdiction to give an order that has the effect of setting aside the order of a brother Judge of the same Court”.
Baiyeshea added that it is even more disturbing that the Federal High Court in Kano is doing that.
While recalling that the situation which he described as ugly trend played out many years ago during the Babangida era, where some judges who did that were compulsorily retired, said something drastic has to be done to stop this embarrassing situation.
“I must however state that the order made by the Federal High Court Abuja appears to be inappropriate and too far reaching. I will not say more than that for now.
“Something is fundamentally wrong with our legal system, quite honestly”.
In his reaction another senior lawyer, Mr. Dayo Akinlaja (SAN), noted that the unfolding scenarios presented are somewhat hazy and a bit confusing.
He however said that it is not likely that the Kano Division of the Federal High Court would have directly assaulted, decimated or set aside the earlier order from the FCT High Court.
“I say that basically because both Courts have coordinate jurisdictions. Neither is superior to the other.
“That being the case, one needs to be patient enough to have all the surrounding details of the matter in Kano to know if the contradictory order being touted has indeed been given and the circumstances that could have informed it.
“However, if per chance the situation is as painted in your question, the suit in Kano would constitute an unmitigated abuse of the process of court. To say the least, for now, the reported scenario is rather frightening and disturbing. I wish to say no more until I am better informed on the finicky details of both actions”, he said.