We stand by NEC decision that all court cases must be withdrawn, says party
Members of the All Progressives Congress, who filed court cases against the party, have vowed to continue with the suits despite the threat to expel them.
Some members of the APC in Bauchi and Ekiti states had dragged the party’s Caretaker/ Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee to court, while some aggrieved members in Enugu, Lagos and Ogun states are preparing to approach the courts to seek redress.
The aggrieved members, on Monday, vowed to continue with the cases as the caretaker committee said it would report them to the National Executive Committee of the party.
At a June 25, 2020 meeting presided over by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), where the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, emerged as the chairman of the caretaker committee, the party had asked all members with pending court cases to withdraw them.
To demonstrate the seriousness attached to the directive, NEC at its meeting on December 8, 2021, announced the expulsion of the former APC National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta, for going to court to challenge the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee.
We won’t withdraw cases, Buhari, party can’t stop suits – Aggrieved members
But on Monday, some aggrieved members in Bauchi State, who spoke to The PUNCH, said they were not scared by the threat of expulsion.
Some members of the party in the state had instituted a case in suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/841/2021 between Babaji Abdullahi and six others versus the APC and five others.
The case was filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, by members protesting the conduct of ward congresses held in July in Bauchi State.
One of the aggrieved APC members in the state, Mallam Sani Sanin-Mallam, confirmed this development to The PUNCH in Abuja on Monday, saying the group would not withdraw the case.
He said, “We built this party with our sweat and blood; we made sacrifices from the beginning. All we ask is for a chance to vote and be voted for as members.
“Some of us were chairmen and secretaries of legacy parties. We had to sacrifice part of our tenure for the merger to succeed. Now, a few people, who by virtue of using the same platform to win elections, want to force us out of the house we built.”
In response to a question as to whether they were not scared of expulsion, he said, “In the pursuit of justice, we are prepared to face anything; if we are expelled, it will not be the end of our lives or our politics.”
In Ekiti State, aggrieved members dared the national leadership of the party to suspend or expel them as a result of the court action instituted against the party over the July 31 ward congresses.
The stakeholders, comprising APC members not satisfied with the running of the party in the state, said neither the President nor the party had the powers to bar anyone from instituting court cases to ventilate their grievances.
Aggrieved contestants in the ward congresses in the state had dragged the party to court to protest the election, which they said did not hold in Ekiti State, and prayed the court to, among others, sack the APC national caretaker committee chairman, Buni; nullify the ward congresses and stop or cancel the results of the local government congresses.
The Chairman of the Ekiti APC Stakeholders, Senator Anthony Adeniyi, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the party, after realising that it did not have such powers, did not bar any member from seeking redress in court.
He accused the leadership of deliberately misinterpreting Buhari’s advice while setting up the Buni-led caretaker committee.
Adeniyi said, “The party did not warn anybody against going to court. They only want to hide under what the President said to perpetrate illegality. What really happened was that President Buhari said those in court should withdraw all cases when the caretaker committee was set up.
“The party cannot stop anyone from going to court. The party has no such powers. By Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, anybody that has a grouse against the government, individuals or any authority has the entrenched right to ventilate such in court. Neither Buhari nor the party said so; they are only giving that interpretation.”
The former National Assembly member added, “The aggrieved stakeholders in Ekiti State are asking the court to nullify the rigged primaries. They are also asking the court to remove Buni and his committee, which was not properly constituted when former National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, left.
“We are not satisfied; there is nothing in our constitution that gave Buhari or the NEC powers, even if NEC had the power to set up a caretaker committee, it did not have powers to extend the tenure. This is one and half years since the committee was set up.
“They (committee members) ought to have done what they wanted to do; they are hiding under reconciliation. Who are they reconciling? They had not been to Ekiti. We never saw them here. The El-Rufai committee set up for reconciliation never set foot on Ekiti since it was set up.”
Adeniyi said when his group presented the case of the aggrieved members before the Congress Appeal Committee, it said the allegations were serious and weighty.
Adeniyi, who said the party lacked the powers to suspend or expel any member over litigation, dared it, saying, “They should go ahead and expel us. They will expel many of us. Those who went to court in the country are over 6,000. There are over 3,500 in Ekiti State.
“What will they use to expel us? Are they telling us that being members of the APC, we cannot exercise our right again? Nobody can expel anybody. If they have the powers, let them try and do it. They will burn and eat their fingers.
“Let them start the process of expelling us; they will start from the wards. Is it in the wards where we have large numbers – over 5,000 people in Ekiti – that they can move a motion to expel us? Even when they wanted to expel us, including Senator Babafemi Ojudu, could they do it? To start the process of suspension and expulsion, they have to start from the wards.”
An Enugu State Chieftain of the APC, Osita Okechuckwu, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Monday, said there were more than three factions of the party in the state, because the team sent from the APC national secretariat failed to adhere to the guidelines.
He said, “We are not ruling out the possibility of approaching the court to seek justice, because what happened in Enugu State was not a primary, it was an imposition.
“Article 20 of our party constitution is clear about how to conduct a primary. It did not say impose; in the event you opt for a consensus, it must be agreeable to all; if not, go for an election.
“The party’s constitution did not preclude members from going to court; it says you will be expelled if you go to court without exhausting internal mechanisms. We went on appeal after the ward congresses and nothing happened; we stand on good grounds to seek legal redress.”
The National Secretary of the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, APC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, while responding to a question on when the party intended to match words with action as regards members who refused to withdraw cases from court, said a list of such cases was being compiled.
“We are already compiling the list of all the cases and you are very conversant with the party constitution. We will inform the National Executive Committee and a decision will be taken by NEC. We will gather the whole thing together then we will approach NEC for a decision. But do we stand by what the NEC said? Yes,” Akpanudoedehe stated. PUNCH