2019: Why APC may not have governorship, other candidates in Rivers

| February 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

The All Progressives Congress (APC) may end up not having candidates for the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives, and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State in 2019, going by the Supreme Court ruling and other pending legal hurdles before the party.

The Supreme Court ruling on Monday invalidated the stay of execution order issued by the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, against an earlier order of a high court in Rivers which nullified the APC congress in the state.

The legal battle in the oil-rich state is part of the power-struggle within the APC between Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, and Magnus Abe, a senator from the state.

Mr Abe wants to run for the governorship of the state under the APC.

But Mr Amaechi, a former governor of the state, who controls the recognised party structure there, is against the senator’s ambition.

While Mr Amaechi has allegedly been applying rough tackles to shut Mr Abe and his supporters out of the party, the senator is using the court to fight back, and he seems to be successful in it, as evidenced by the Supreme Court ruling.

The high court order on the party’s congress, which has just gotten the Supreme Court backing, nullified the APC congress which produced the current state chairman of the party, Ojukaye Amachree, who is Mr Amaechi’s ally.

The high court was presided over by Justice Chinwendu Nwogu.

Following the APC’s decision to proceed with primaries in the state despite the order against its earlier congress, the court on October 10 declared null and void, the nomination of Mr Amaechi’s man, Tonye Cole, as the governorship candidate of the APC on grounds that Mr Abe’s supporters were excluded from the party congress.

It also voided the party’s nominations for Senate, House of Representatives, and House of Assembly for the 2019 elections in the state.

That substantive judgement invalidating the primaries is yet to be decided upon by the appeal court.

One Ibrahim Umah and 22 others were the plaintiffs in the suit at the high court.

“The people kept acting in clear contempt of the court, they kept disobeying court orders on the congress and the primaries,” Mr Abe told PREMIUM TIMES, Monday.

“From the beginning, everybody knew this (the nullification) was coming. They set themselves on a collision course with the court.”

The Supreme Court, in its judgement, berated the court of appeal for affirming the APC congress and warned that the court would not tolerate attempts to undermine its decision by any Nigerian.

“It is unfortunate and wrongful for the Court of Appeal to entertain a party in contempt of a valid court order, to the extent of granting judicial favour by way of stay of execution of an injunctive order.

“It is a serious matter for anyone to flout a court order and in the instant case, it is clear that the respondent (APC) was in grave disobedience of two lawful court orders,” said Centus Nweze, on behalf of a five-member panel of the apex court.

Reactions From Amaechi, Abe’s Camps

Mr Abe hailed the Supreme Court judgment as “historic” and said it would amount to “political rascality of the highest order” for anyone to continue to parade himself as the APC governorship candidate in the state, after the court judgement.

“Luckily, the party conducted proper primaries here in Rivers State in the form of direct primaries.

“And I believe that the proper thing to do is to do the right thing since the other primary was done in clear violation of an existing order of a Court of Competent Jurisdiction,” the senator said on Tuesday through a statement issued by his spokesperson, Parry Benson.

What Mr Abe means by APC “doing the right thing” is that the party should forward his name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as its ‘recognised’ governorship candidate in Rivers.

“I will stay in the APC and I will fight for justice because that is what this party is founded on,” Mr Abe said.

No, there’s no victory for Senator Abe in the judgement, the Amaechi faction is saying.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the appeal filed at the Supreme Court by Ibrahim Umar and 22 others of which the ruling was given today, three issues were canvassed before the Supreme Court one of which was that the Appeal Court did not act correctly by granting a stay of execution on the interlocutory orders of the State High Court.

“The Supreme Court agreed with them. However, the Supreme Court did not make pronouncements on the other issues since the State High Court had already given final judgment on them, an action that has left the present development a mere academic exercise,” the APC in Rivers state said on Monday in a statement from its spokesperson, Chris Finebone.

Mr Finebone, in the statement, asked APC members and supporters “to ignore the raging propaganda by detractors that the Supreme Court set aside congresses and primaries of the party in Rivers State.

“That is a big lie from the pit of hell,” he said.

The APC all along has woven a conspiracy theory around Mr Abe and his pursuit of justice in the court of law.

The party at several times had accused the Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike, and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of trying to destabilise the APC in the state through the senator.

It also accused the high court judge, Mr Nwogu, of being a part of the conspiracy.

When the judge gave the October 10 judgement setting aside the ward, local government and state congresses of the APC, the party responded immediately by saying that “they saw it coming”.

On October 19, the party issued a press statement alleging that Mr Nwogu was in a “tripartite accord” with messrs Wike and Abe to frustrate it “from swiftly perfecting its appeal process through the delay in making available to the party a certified true copy of the judgment”.

Implications Of Supreme Court Judgement – Lawyers

Most lawyers who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said the Supreme Court judgement on the Rivers APC crisis was “a deserving punishment” for the party for “disobeying a court order”.

“It was most contemptuous for the court of appeal to have allowed the other party to be heard because they were in contempt to the order of court,” said Malachy Ugwummadu, a Lagos-based lawyer.

“There was a restraining order pending when that congresses were conducted, and the Supreme Court affirmed that it was an order made in bad faith because it is an elementary principle of law that once a party is in contempt of a court order, it cannot be heard.”

Another Lagos-based lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, said the implication of the judgement is that the APC cannot sponsor any candidate in Rivers State in the 2019 general elections pending when the main appeal at the court of appeal is determined and possibly a further appeal to the Supreme Court on the substantive issue.

It should be noted, however, that what the Supreme Court has decided is not on the substantive issue of whether the decision of the high court is correct or not, Mr Effiong said.

The lawyer said Mr Abe can only feel excited about the judgement, “but cannot really benefit from it”.

“Whichever way the case goes, the idea of Abe becoming a governorship candidate of APC is completely foreclosed, that is my opinion as a lawyer.

“It’s not possible because under section 87 of the Electoral Act, a candidate can only emerge through a primary. The primary that the APC national working committee held has been invalidated, so nobody can be laying claim to the candidacy of a political party that never had a primary as pronounced by the high court,” he said.

Another lawyer, Abdul Mahmoud, sees the Supreme Court judgement simply as “a normal procedural matter”.

“A party is allowed under the rules to go to a higher court for clarity or to dispose of interlocutory matter that does not affect the substance of the case before it,” Mr Mahmoud said.

The Supreme Court judgement is clearly a political setback for Mr Amaechi and the APC, but definitely not a permanent one, until the court of appeal, and maybe the Supreme Court rule on the decision of the Rivers high court which nullified the APC congresses and primaries in the state.

“The only hope for Ameachi’s faction is for either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court to set aside the judgement of the high court. If that does not happen, there is no way they can have candidates in this election,” the lawyer, Mr Effiong, added.

He added, “Legally, I don’t see any out of court settlement taking place here.”

Mr Ugwummadu advised the APC to find a political solution to the crisis.

“For whatever it is worth, because it is a political matter, I know that political matters before the Supreme Court are always decided timeously. The issues will be decided even before the election. I even think the whole matter will be disposed of within the next one month at both Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court,” Mr Mahmoud said.

“But the legal effect here is this: we are talking about time. If the matter is not disposed of by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court eventually determines the issue outside the window provided for by the Electoral Act and the timetable given by INEC, there will be serious legal issues which cannot be addressed by law because the two courts would by then have given their judgements.

“If judgement is given outside the window of the timetable granted by INEC, the APC may end up not presenting candidates in Rivers state,” Mr Mahmoud said.

The lawyer, however, said it was still possible for the Supreme Court to make a consequential order, directing INEC to replace the name it already has, even though the window has been closed because the matter started before the closure of the window.

Culled from :Here

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