By Jude Ossai
Nigerian Tribune, Tuesday, July 16, 2013
THE Court of Appeal in Enugu, on Monday, quashed the judgment of the Enugu State High Court delivered by the state Chief Judge, Justice Innocent Umezulike, on February 8, 2013 that sacked the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) on the grounds that that its tenure expired in 2010.
The court affirmed Chief Victor Umeh as the National Chairman of APGA consequently putting to rest the leadership crisis that had engulfed the party in recent time.
In a lead judgment delivered by Justice Tom Yakubu and concurred by two other justices in the appeal panel, Justices Paul Galinje (chairman) and Modupe Kwasami, the appellate court granted all the four reliefs sought by the applicant (Umeh) and resolved all the issues set out for determination in his favour.
The lower court had in its ruling on the case instituted against the APGA national chairman by an expelled member of the party in Enugu State, Mr Jude Okuli, ordered the removal of Chief Umeh on the grounds that his tenure had expired, It also declared the November 10, 2011 National Convention of the party where Umeh and other NWC members were re-elected as unconstitutional.
Chief Umeh thereafter proceeded to the appellate court to challenge the decision of the lower court and the court, in the course of proceedings, granted a stay of execution of Umezulike’s judgment paving the way for Umeh to continue as APGA national chairman pending the resolution of the substantive appeal.
While delivering the judgment on the appeal, Justice Yakubu dismissed all the objections raised by the respondent (Okuli) against the appeal, saying the lower court had no jurisdiction ab initio to entertain the case brought before it, since according to him, the plaintiff had been expelled from the party.
Meanwhile, Chief Maxi Okwu, a factional leader of APGA has rejected the Appeal Court’s judgment which upheld Chief Umeh as the party’s national chairman.
“My leadership remains focused, until the contradictions in the judgment are resolved.
“As it stands, there are two conflicting judgments from the same Court of Appeal on the APGA leadership crisis.
“The first affirmed my election, while the second upheld Umeh’s. Our lawyers will meet to look at it and take the necessary actions,” he told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on telephone.
The party’s National Assistant Legal Adviser, Umeh’s faction, Mrs Olufumilayo Onwubiko, told NAN:“Umeh’s leadership stands. The plan of some politicians to bring him down has failed.
“I am happy that he won the case because everybody took to their heels when the party was in crisis, but Umeh was busy building it,” she said.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Fred Agbaje, in his reaction, lauded the decision of the appellate court, noting that the verdict had renewed the people’s confidence in the rule of law.
Agbaje, however, expressed dissatisfaction over the attitude of some party chairmen, who he said, exhibited unwholesome habits by perpetuating themselves in office, after the expiration of their tenure.
Also speaking on the issue, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa said the decision of the appellate court was indeed commendable.
“The decision of the appellate court is a re-affirmation of Umeh’s candidature.
“I believe that this judgment is in line with due process of law, the constitution and the Electoral Act,”he said.
A former National President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, said he was certain that the court had a good reason for arriving at its decision.
He, however, said he would comment appropriately on the issue, after he had carefully reviewed the judgment of the court.
In the same vein, Mr Femi Falana, told NAN that he was yet to see a copy of the court’s judgment and so, was not in a position to make any comment on the matter.