With Court Ruling in Port Harcourt, APC No Longer Has Acting Chairman

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•Zamfara, Rivers scenarios loom
•No leadership vacuum in APC, party insists

Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

With the ruling yesterday by a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, which restrained Chief Victor Giadom from parading himself as the Acting National Chairman and a member of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party, legally, no longer has an acting chairman.

Chief Giadom, the Deputy National Secretary, is one of the three members of the National Working Committee of APC laying claim to the chairmanship of the party, after the Appeal Court ruling that suspended Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman.

Giadom relied on an order of FCT High Court on the 16th of March this year, by Justice S.U. Bature, for him to act as the National Chairman when Oshiomhole was earlier suspended. That order could not take effect because of the reprieve Oshiomhole got at the Appeal Court. But with the Appeal Court’s ruling that Oshiomhole’s suspension was in order, Giadom renewed his claim to the chairmanship of the party.

But the Port Harcourt court, presided by Justice Florence Fiberesima yesterday granted an exparte order restraining Giadom, following an application from two stalwarts of the APC in Rivers State, Dele Moses and Azunda Awori, through their counsel, F.C. Nwafor, for a restraining order seeking to stop Giadom from parading as either the Acting National Chairman or Deputy National Secretary of the party.
The party’s NWC had earlier named the former governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, as its acting national chairman. Because of Ajimobi’s health issues, it subsequently asked the National Vice Chairman (South-south), Hilliard Eta, to fill the position in Ajimobi’s absence.

But analysts say in line with the party’s constitution, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party ought to ratify Ajimobi’s nomination before he can legally take charge as acting chairman. They are of the opinion that without this, the so-called confirmation of Ajimobi by the NWC, and the directives to Eta to act on his behalf are illegalities.

With the injunction against Giadom, the APC no longer has a leader recognised by law and may be unable to field candidates for all elections now, the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections inclusive.
The Zamfara and Rivers states scenario looms again for the APC, with incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki, who has now joined the PDP, now looking good to coast home to victory unchallenged.

The Case in Port Harcourt

Joined in the suit in Port Harcourt were the APC and the Caretaker Committee Chairman of APC in the state, Igo Aguma, and the National Legal Adviser of the party, Babatunde Ogala.
The appelants argued that Giadom had resigned his position as a member of the NWC of the APC to contest the 2019 election as deputy governor on the platform of the party.

The application reads in part: “A declaration that sequel to the resignation of the 3rd defendant (Hon Victor Giadom) as Deputy National Secretary of the 1st Defendant (APC) in 2018, for the purposes of contesting in the 2019 general election as Deputy Governor of Rivers State, the 3rd defendant is no longer the Deputy National Secretary of the 1st Defendant and is not a member of the National Working Committee ( NWC) of the 1st Defendant having resigned his membership of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the 1st Defendant for purposes of contesting in the 2019 general election as the Deputy Governor of Rivers State.

“A declaration that the resignation of the 3rd Defendant (Victor Giadom), as the Deputy National Secretary of the 1st Defendant in 2018, is valid and effective from 2018 till date.

“A declaration that the 3rd Defendant (Hon Victor Giadom) is not the National Chairman, or Acting National Chairman, or Deputy National Secretary or otherwise howsoever a member of the National Working Committee of the 1st Defendant.

“An order restraining the 3rd Defendant (Hon Victor Giadom) from issuing, signing or endorsing any document or correspondence to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or any other body or institution in the capacity of the National Chairman or Acting National Chairman of the 1st Defendant or howsoever as an officer of the 1st Defendant.

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Defendants from recognising or regarding the 3rd Defendant as either a member of the National Working Committee (NWC), the Deputy National Secretary, National Chairman or Acting National Chairman of the 1st Defendant.”

The court granted the reliefs sought.

Specifically, the order issued by Fiberesima read in part: “It is hereby ordered as follows: That an interim injunction be and is hereby made restraining the 3rd Defendant (Hon Victor Giadom) from acting by himself or through his privies or agents howsoever described from parading himself as the National Chairman of the 1st defendant/respondent or member of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the 1st defendant pending the determination of the motion on notice.”

She also granted an interim injunction restraining Giadom from “issuing, signing or endorsing any document to the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or any other body or institution in the capacity of acting national chairman” of APC or as an officer of the party in any capacity pending the determination of the matter.

The judge adjourned the matter to July 1 for hearing of the motion on notice.

Reacting to Giadom’s claim to the party’s chairmanship position, based on the earlier Abuja court’s ruling, the National Publicity Secretary of the party insisted that there was no leadership vacuum to fill on the said March 16, 2020 as the Deputy Chairman (South), Senator Abiola Ajimobi had already assumed the role of Acting National Chairman.

The party spokesman explained that none of the four defendants named on the said process were served with the originating processes in the suit, adding that as a result, the party became aware of the existence of such an order on June 17, 2020 through its circulation on social media.

Giadom Writes INEC

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Giadom, wrote a letter to the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), introducing himself as the acting national chairman of the ruling party.

In a letter dated June 18, Giadom told INEC to serve all processes and documents concerning APC elections, as well as other correspondences on him.

“I want to respectfully through this medium bring it to your attention that I have been appointed as the acting National Chairman of the APC. A copy of the order of the FCT High Court, Abuja affirming my authority as the acting national chairman of the APC is herewith attached.

“Please note that the earlier of the FCT High Court suspending Comrade Adams Oshiomhole from office on March 4, 2020 as affirmed by the Court of Appeal, Abuja on June 16, 2020. Mr. Oshiomhole’s appeals were dismissed on that date. Copies of the orders of the court in the tow cases are herewith attached for your perusal.

“As the acting national chairman of the party, all processes, documents, and communications including those concerning the conduct of elections meant for the APC are to be served on me.”

The party has been embroiled in a leadership crisis following the appeal court ruling that upheld the suspension of Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman of the party.

While the party announced Ajimobi as acting chairman, Giadom declared himself national chairman and also reversed the disqualification of Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo, from the gubernatorial primary election and ordered a fresh exercise.

But the national working committee of the APC overruled him and appointed Eta, vice chairman of the party (south-south), to stand in for Ajimobi who was “unavoidably absent”.

However, on Thursday, a high court of the federal capital territory (FCT) reaffirmed Giadom as the acting national chairman of the APC but another high court in Rivers State has now restrained him from parading himself as such.