The crisis in the All Progressives Congress worsened on Tuesday when the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja upheld the suspension of Adams Oshiomhole as the APC national chairman.
But earlier on the same day, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, announced his resignation from the APC, citing the party’s decision to disqualify him from participating in the June 22 governorship primary as his reason.
In a unanimous judgment of a three-man panel led by Justice Eunice Onyemanam, the Court of Appeal affirmed the earlier March 4, 2020 order of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, suspending Oshiomhole and barring him from continuing to parade himself as the national chairman of the party.
Justice Danlami Senchi of the FCT High Court had on March 4, 2020 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.
Together with the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, and the Department of State Services, the six applicants were the respondents to appeal jointly filed by Oshiomhole and the APC.
The main suit leading to the order earlier suspending Oshiomhole was instituted before the FCT High Court by six applicants, including the Vice-Chairman of the party, North-East, Mustapha Salihu, and the Chairman of the party in Edo State, Anslem Ojezua.
The rest of the applicants are members Oshiomhole’s Ward 10 of Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State, Alhaji Sani Gomna, Oshawo Steven, Fani Wabulari, and Princewill Ejogharado.
The plaintiffs are loyalists of the Governor Godwin Obaseki in the state.
The ward executives had in November 2019 suspended the national chairman as a member of the party for anti-party activities, a decision which the FCT High Court anchored the order suspending Oshiomhole on November 2, 2019.
In compliance with the court order the security agencies had promptly taken over the national secretariat of the party in Abuja blocking Oshiomhole from accessing his office. But Oshiomhole had through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), appealed against the court’s interlocutory order.
Following his application for stay of execution of the judgment, a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by by Justice Abubakar Yahaya had on March 16, 2020 halted the execution of the judgment by reversing Oshiomhole’s suspension, pending the hearing of his substantive appeal.
But the Justice Onyemanam-led panel, which was appointed to hear the substantive appeal, re-imposed the suspension in its judgment delivered on Tuesday.
The judgment was delivered hours after the hearing was conducted on Tuesday. Oshiomhole, who was present in court, was represented by Damien Dodo (SAN). He did not grant any interview after the judgment.
Justice Mohammed Lamido, who delivered the lead judgment, said the lower court had rightly issued the order of suspension on March 4, 2020. He resolved all the issues raised in the appeal against Oshiomhole. He also ruled that the plaintiffs at the lower court who were the respondents in the appeal, placed sufficient materials before the lower court to warrant the granting of the interlocutory order.
“In these circumstances, the position taken by the lower court that the plaintiffs have made a case for the issuance of the interlocutory order is proper and that part of the decision is hereby upheld,” Justice Lamido ruled.
On Oshiomhole’s contention about an alleged breach of his right to fair hearing, Justice Lamido held that contrary to his argument, the order issued by the lower court was for his suspension and not removal from office.
Earlier in a separate judgment, Justice Onyemanam who led the panel had in a separate judgment affirmed another March 2, 2020 ruling of the lower court dismissing Oshiomhole’s preliminary objection challenging the lower court’s jurisdiction to hear the suit before it.
Justice Onyemanam resolved all of the four issues raised for the determination against Oshiomhole. She held that the suit filed by the plaintiffs at the FCT High Court was not an abuse of court process. She held that it was untrue that the plaintiffs had two pending suits on the same subject matter before the same court. She noted that the plaintiffs had no intention to make use of the two suits, and in fact, withdrew the one marked FCT/HC/CV/2019.
“Unless we intend to stand the law and the established procedures on their head, there is no element of abuse in the instant case,” she ruled.
Resolving another issue against Oshiomhole, she ruled that the principle that a court was barred from interfering in the internal affairs of a political party, was not applicable in the case.
She also held that the plaintiffs had locus standi to institute the suit, contrary to Oshiomhole’s contention. She held that it was untrue that none of the plaintiffs had any benefit to derive from the outcome of the suit. She also ruled that the FCT High Court had the territorial jurisdiction to hear the case.
She held that, by virtue of the FCT High Court Civil Procedure Rules, the plaintiffs were right to file the suit before the court in Abuja, since Oshiomhole’s office was in Abuja and the national secretariat was located in Abuja. Neither Oshiomhole nor his lawyer, Dodo, spoke with journalists after the judgment. But the respondents’ lawyer, Mr Oluwole Afolabi, who spoke with journalists on the court premises hailed the judgment.
Obaseki, deputy resign from APC
Obaseki and his deputy, Mr Philip Shaibu, resigned from the APC on Tuesday. The governor, who announced his resignation from the APC in an interview with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, came down hard on the party’s national chairman, whom he accused of being behind his ordeal.
He explained that do you remember that in my last tweet after my disqualification was announced by the APC, I stated that I would make a decision after I have consulted with the leadership and my supporters in Edo State and also having informed the President.