A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday sacked the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh and its National Secretary, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi, from office.
The trial high court, in a judgment yesterday, held that the duo were not only invalidly elected into office by voice votes instead of secret ballot as stipulated by Article 18 (3) of the Constitution of APGA, but that the party’s scribe had overstayed in office contrary to the provisions of the constitution.
The verdict signposts the return of fresh leadership crisis in the party.
The presiding high court judge, Justice Abdul Kafarati, who invalidated the election of both the national chairman and secretary of the party, however, endorsed the Maxi Okwu parallel executive committee as the authentic leader of the party.
The case, which has the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as a codefendant directed the electoral umpire to comply with the court judgement.
But moments after the verdict was delivered yesterday, the duo of Umeh and Shinkafi declared the judgement as incompetent, null and void and mere an exhibition of judicial rascality.
They urged party faithful and the Nigerians to see the judgement as an anomaly which would be corrected on appeal.
The duo, who were affected by the judgment yesterday, had also filed a notice of appeal and an application for stay of the judgement pending the determination of their appeal.
They, however, vowed to proceed against the trial judge, Justice Abdul Kafarati, whom they claimed willfully delivered what they called the “fraudulent judgment” to unsettle APGA, a political party which controls governance a state of the federation.
It will be recalled that the founding leader of APGA, Chief Chekwas Okorie was fought, in law courts, to a standstill by Chief Victor Umeh’s executive committee for many years.
Chief Okorie, who accepted defeat recently after the Supreme Court declared that he had been expelled from the party and could therefore not claim to be the leader of the party, had since formed another party.
The acceptance of the judgement of the apex court then, had brought peace into the party.
But yesterday’s judgment seemed to have unsettled the peace being enjoyed in the party.
The background to the brewing crisis in APGA is that a chieftain of the party, Chief Maxi Okwu had dragged Umeh, Shinkafi and INEC before the court, challenging their continual stay in office beyond what the constitution of the party provided for.
Okwu had instituted the suit on August 19, 2013 seeking an order directing the second defendant (Shinkafi) to vacate his office as the national secretary of the party having been first elected into office on January 10, 2003.
He prayed for an order directing the first and second defendants and all officers they represented to vacate their offices forthwith not having been elected in accordance with Article 18 (4) of the constitution of the party, which prescribed that election into the offices shall be by secret ballot, and an order directing INEC to deal with Maxi Okwu’s leadership of APGA.
Counsel to Umeh, Patrick Ikwueto, SAN, had urged the court to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction.
He submitted that the three plaintiffs, Ibrahim Carefor, Gbenga Afeni and Abubakar Adamu, had withdrawn from the suit, leaving Okwu and Dickson Ogu as plaintiffs.
Counsel to Okwu, Maduabuchi opposed the preliminary objection and urged the court to uphold that Sani Shinkafi’s tenure as national secretary had since expired having been elected to the position on January 10, 2003.
Maduabuchi urged the court to direct INEC to recognize and deal with the Okwu leadership of the party.
The case was fiercely prosecuted by both parties.
Delivering judgment in the case yesterday, Justice Abdul Kafarati held that the plaintiff had the locus standi, going by the affidavit in support of the originating summons to institute the suit as against the objection brought by the defendants challenging the legal interest of Okwu in instituting the suit.
by ISE-OLUWA IGE