A Federal High Court, Abuja, Monday, fixed May 14, 2018, for judgment on a suit challenging the tenure elongation of the National Working Committee (NWC ) of the ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC).
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, arrived at the date shortly after counsel to parties in the suit argued and adopted their written addresses.
Following the decision of the National Executive Counsel (NEC) of the All Progressive Congress (APC) at its meeting of February 27 to extend the tenure of members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) for another one year, including that of the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, some aggrieved members of the party had approached the court to challenge the decision.
The members led by Ademorin Aliu Kioye 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), All Progressive Congress (APC), Chief Odigie-Oyegun and the National Organising Secretary of the APC, Senator Osita Izunaso.
When the matter was called Monday, Ahmed Raji (SAN), counsel to the plaintiffs, informed the court that the matter was for hearing.
He argued that the matter borders around section 223 of the constitution which fixes the tenure of elected officials of political parties to a maximum of 4years.
Raji said one of the questions the court should answer is whether the provision of 223 of the constitution, as regards tenure of political parties’ officials is mandatory.
“We have argued that section 223 of the constitution is mandatory and the philosophy is to ensure political parties conduct their affairs in a democratic way, because what you don’t have you cannot give”, he submitted.
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.
He also dismissed claims 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.
He therefore 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.
Other defendants however opposed to the motion and urged the court to dismiss the suit for been premature.
According to Joseph Daudu (SAN), counsel to the 2nd 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 that 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 2nd 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.
He further submitted that there is no cause of action for the suit and urged the court to dismiss it.
Also Ogwu Onoja (SAN), counsel to the 4th 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 4th defendant is whether he can context 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 context election without resigning from office.
After taking submissions of counsel in the matter, Justice Dimgba adjourned till May 14, 2018 for judgment.