The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Monday lifted the suspension of Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress.
Before the appellate court nullified Oshiomhole’s suspension, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had postponed indefinitely, the APC National Executive Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday (today).
Also on Monday, governors, who were opposed to Oshiomhole, at a meeting in Abuja, engaged in a shouting match with their colleagues supporting him.
But a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Abubakar Yahaya unanimously ordered a stay of execution of the March 4, 2020 order of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, which suspended Oshiomhole from office.
It also restrained the respondents to Oshiomhole’s appeal, including the police and the Department of State Services from continuing to enforce the FCT High Court’s order.
Apart from the police and the DSS, the other respondents restrained by the Court of Appeal were the plaintiffs at the FCT High Court who obtained the order for the suspension of Oshimhole.
They are the Vice-Chairman of the party in the North-East, Mustapha Salihu, and the Chairman of the party in Edo State, Anslem Ojezua; Alhaji Sani Gomna, Oshawo Steven, Fani Wabulari, and Princewill Ejogharado.
Oshiomhole, who was in court with a large number of his supporters, was visibly happy after the ruling was delivered on Monday.
The court lifted Oshiomhole’s suspension following an ex parte application for stay of execution of the FCT High Court’s order which was moved by his lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), on Monday.
Delivering the lead ruling shortly after listening to Olanipekun, Justice Abubakar Yahaya noted that there was the urgent need for the FCT High Court’s order to be lifted to enable Oshiomhole to participate in the APC’s National Executive Council meeting scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
Justice Yahaya said there would not be any status quo to maintain if the NEC meeting held in his absence.
He ruled, “We are of the view that an emergency picture has been painted so that the intervention by this court at this time and in this process is warranted.
“There is information that the National Executive Committee meeting of the second applicant is to be held tomorrow (Tuesday) and following the order of the FCT High Court under consideration, the first applicant (Oshiomhole) will not be able to participate. If this happens, then there is no chance that there will be status quo ante bellum to be maintained. The status quo can only be maintained, in these circumstances, if there is a stay of execution of the FCT High Court’s order.
“It is on this basis that we find merit in this application. We hereby order a stay of execution of the ruling of the FCT High Court in suit number FCT/HC/CV/837/2020 delivered on March 4, 2020, pending the determination of the motion on notice which is now slated for hearing on Friday, March 20, 2020.
“As a corollary, we also hereby make an order restraining the respondents, themselves their agents, privies, and servants, jointly and severally from continuing to take any further steps to give effect to the same order of the FCT High Court pending the determination of the motion on notice.”
Noting that Oshiomhole had demonstrated his preparedness to prosecute the appeal, the appellate court also ordered the accelerated hearing in the case.
Justice Yahaya ended the ruling with an appeal to politicians to stop involving the court in all their internal affairs.
“Having said all those, we implore political parties to try to resolve their differences amicably without the necessity of involving the court at all times,” Justice Yahaya said.
While arguing his ex parte application for the stay of execution of the FCT High Court’s order, Olanipekun had urged the court to grant the application, arguing that failure to do so might cause irreparable damage to his client.
“My lords, time is of essence,” Olanipekun said, adding that the National Executive Council of the APC was set to hold its meeting on Tuesday in Oshiomhole’s absence.
He also cited section 122 of the Evidence Act which he said “enjoins your lordship to take judicial notice of what is going on in your surroundings” as he said that the party had been destabilised since March 4 when the suspension order was issued against Oshiomhole.
He noted that the FCT High Court’s order suspending Oshiomhole was issued contrary to the admonition of the Supreme Court to courts not to dabble in the internal affairs of political parties.
An attempt by the respondents’ lawyer, Mr Oluwole Afolabi, to pass the information that the party’s NEC had been postponed, was rebuffed by the panel.
Responding to Oluwole, the panel said the hearing being ex parte proceedings, the respondents were not entitled to be heard and the information passed to the court through their lawyer could not be validly used.
The Court of Appeal’s hearing was initially adjourned indefinitely on Monday afternoon.
The court resumed sitting at 4pm after the members of the special panel constituted by the court management were able to arrive in Abuja from their divisions in different parts of the country.
Justice Danlami Senchi of the FCT High Court had on March 4 suspended Oshiomhole as APC’s National Chairman on the grounds that the party wrongfully continued to retain him in office while he was under suspension as a member of the party.
The suit was instituted before the FCT High Court by six applicants.
Together with the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed and the Department of State Services, the six applicants are the respondents to appeal jointly filed by Oshiomhole and the APC.
FCT court gives Giadom go-ahead to become acting chair
Meanwhile, Justice S.U. Bature of the FCT High Court in Maitama, Abuja, had earlier on Monday granted an interim order allowing the acting National Secretary of the APC, Chief Victor Giadom, “to pilot the affairs” of the party “as acting Chairman and to preside at all meetings of the National Executive Committee”.
Justice Bature ruled that Giadom would continue to play the role of the acting chairman pending the NEC meeting scheduled for Tuesday or any other subsequent adjourned date and the determination of the pending motion on notice.
He also made an interim order restraining the APC and its officers “or anyone purporting to act as an officer of the fourth defendant (APC) from preventing or in any way disturbing Chief Victor Giadom (present acting National Secretary) from functioning as the acting National Executive Committee meeting of the fourth defendant) pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”
The judge, who made the orders following an ex parte application filed by Mustapha Salihu, adjourned the hearing of the motion on notice till Friday.
The application was moved on Monday by the applicant’s lawyer, O.C. Ugwu.
The respondents to the suit are the National Legal Adviser of the party, Babatunde Ogala, National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, Waziri Bulama and the APC.
Also, a chieftain of the party and Director General, Voice of Nigeria, Chief Osita Okechukwu, insisted that Oshiomhole must not remain the party’s national chairman.
He spoke on the Court of Appeal premises in Abuja before the hearing of Oshiomhole’s case on Monday.
Speaking on behalf of the “Oshiomhole Must Go” group, Okechukwu listed 10 “sins” allegedly committed by Oshiomhole against the party.
He accused Oshiomhole of, among others, revival and resurrection of the Peoples Democratic Party structure, a political party in 2018.
Buhari, govs postpone NEC meeting
Before the orders of the two courts on Monday, the President and the APC governors had postponed the NEC meeting of the party.
They took the decision after a meeting held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The session lasted barely 15 minutes after the governors went behind closed doors with Buhari upon arriving at the State House about 3.06pm.
Findings indicated that disagreements among the governors over the crisis rocking the party, forced the postponement of the NEC meeting, just 24 hours to the date (today).
A source at the meeting, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “There are issues within the party. But we all know that Oshiomhole’s fate is the major one. There is a crack among the governors, though a majority seem to say he should leave, going by their body language and actions.
“The chairman’s camp is hanging in the balance, and also resorting to the judicial process to stop further actions against him,” a source informed The PUNCH on Monday.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting, the Chairman, Progressives Governors’ Forum, Mr Atiku Bagudu, said the governors went to Buhari to urge him to support the postponement until such a time when the governors were able to resolve the issues in the party.
He added that they would need to hold the NEC meeting as a united front after the governors had addressed all the areas of disagreement.
Bagudu, who is the Governor of Kebbi State, spoke further, “We met with Mr President. Amongst other issues, we discussed about the party in appreciation to Mr President how he has given access to each of us individually and collectively.
“And among the issues we discussed was the resolution the governors had taken to work together to resolve all the issues in the party.
“And also we sought Mr President’s support to postpone the National Executive Council meeting that was scheduled for tomorrow (today) until such a time that the governors are ready to report back.”
When he was asked whether Buhari approved the postponement, Atiku-Bagudu replied that he did.
He added, “Yes, he is so happy that we all agree to that (postponement of the NEC meeting.”
Those who attended the meeting were Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) ;Gboyega Oyetola (Osun); Godwin Obaseki (Edo) Abubakar Atiku-Bagudu (Kebbi); Muhammadu Yahaya (Gombe); Babagana Zullum (Borno); Abubakar Bello (Niger); Simon Lalong (Plateau); Babatide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos); Aminu Masari (Katsina); and Hope Uzodinma (Imo).
Others were Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); and Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa).
The four governors who did not attend the meeting were Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Yahaya Bello (Kogi); Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna); and Mai Mala-Buni (Yobe).
Oshiomhole at the villa
Findings also indicated that Oshiomhole visited the State House shortly before Buhari’s meeting with the APC governors.
It’s unclear what was his mission but he was sighted going to the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr Abba Kyari, about 1.02pm, the same time that Buhari began a meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila.
Before now, Oshiomhole would visit the Villa and go straight to the President’s office, unlike on Monday when he went to see Kyari.
He left after a brief stay at Kyari’s office and hurried away without speaking to reporters.
The APC Deputy National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, also confirmed to one of our correspondents that the NEC meeting had been postponed.
He said, “Everybody has to respect the intervention of the President” Asked to respond to a question on a court order Oshiomhole got as national chairman, he said, “I have not been served yet; I am talking to you as the acting national secretary.”
A member-elect of the Edo State House of Representatives, Washinton Osifo, who spoke in support of the decision of the President to intervene, said, “Mr. President acted as a father and leader of our party. Like I have always called on him to intervene, we cannot watch a few people destroy this party, it is time for us to unite.”
Pro-Oshiomhole govs, opponents hold separate meetings
Before the governors held their meeting as members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, they met separately depending on where they stood in the dispute.
Those in support of Oshiomhole met at the Kano State Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, while those opposed to him met at the Kebbi Governor’s Lodge also in Asokoro.
Shouting match at APC govs’ forum meeting, pro- Oshiomhole group moves against Bagudu
The meeting of the Progressives Governors’ Forum degenerated into a shouting match as pro-Oshiomhole governors engaged their colleagues who were opposed to him.
One of our correspondents gathered that the two camps first met separately to harmonise their positions before holding a meeting involving all of them.
Governors in the Oshiomhole camp include Hope Uzodinma (Imo); Babagana Zulum (Borno), Babajide Sanwo-Olu, (Lagos), while governors against him include Bagudu (Kebbi), Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, (Ondo) and Godwin Obaseki (Edo).
A source privy to the meeting said, “Trouble started when the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, wanted to present a communique he had prepared.
“When he said something suggesting that to the effect that the governors had agreed to ease Oshiomhole out, the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, got up and accused him of being fraudulent. Zulum joined and tempers flared.”
Calm was later restored but there was still a stalemate when the two camps met with the President.
Another source said, “The intervention of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, is simply to douse tension. There is still tension but the President in his wisdom decided to call for a ceasefire to give time for tempers to cool down.
“The governors are sharply divided. The first term governors were able to come together to speak with one voice to their older colleagues at some point. The President for reasons best known to himself listens a lot to the former Lagos State governor, Ahmed Tinubu.”
It was also gathered that the pro-Oshiomhole governors threatened to seek a replacement for Bagudu as Chairman of the PGF if he did not remove the Director General of the Forum, Salihu Lukeman, whom they accused of taking sides and going beyond his brief.
Lukeman could not be reached for comments as his mobile was switched off when our correspondent called.
Reps APC caucus backs Buhari, insists on due process
The APC caucus in the House of Representatives said it supported Buhari on the crisis in the ruling party.
The caucus, which held a closed-door meeting in Abuja on Monday, insisted on due process in the removal of Oshiomhole.
The only principal officers at the meeting were the Majority Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; Deputy Majority Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Ado-Doguwa admitted that the issues in the APC were about elections in 2023.
He stated, “ The President has said it all. Even the controversial (NEC) meeting that was expected to hold tomorrow (today) is now shelved. It is now adjourned. These are some of the things that we discussed and we will continue to look at our party as a party that will finally come together.”
After survival, Oshiomhole convenes NWC meeting
Shortly after his reinstatement, Oshiomhole on Monday invited the APC’s National Working Committee members to a meeting at the party’s national secretariat, in Abuja, on Tuesday.
In line with this, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, in a statement, said, “A meeting of the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress is scheduled for Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at the party’s national secretariat by 12 noon.
“All members of the NWC are expected to attend as important matters concerning the party will be considered and deliberated upon at the meeting.”
However, the party’s National Vice Chairman, (North East), Mustapha Salihu, said even as a party to the appeal suit, he had yet to be served with the judgment. He said he would not comment on a matter in which he had yet to be fully briefed
Since 2019, the APC has been battling with crises in its Zamfara, Ondo, Bayelsa and Edo state chapters. In Edo State, the party is divided into two factions, with one loyal to Oshiomhole, while the other has the support of the state governor.
In November 2019, the Director General of Progressive Governors’ Forum, Saliu Lukman, asked Oshiomhole to convene a NEC meeting of the party or resign.
The crises came to a head on March 4 when the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Jabi, Abuja ordered an interim suspension of Oshiomhole as the APC national chairman.
The court stated Oshiomhole could not function as the national chairman since he had been suspended in the Edo State chapter of the party.
On March 5, a Federal High Court sitting in Kano nullified Oshiomhole’s suspension by the Edo State chapter of the party.
Despite the order of the court in Kano, the embattled national chairman had not been allowed access to the APC’s national secretariat, where Giadom had taken over the running of affairs.