The Supreme Court yesterday set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, which validated the conduct of congresses by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State.
The verdict of the highest court in the land is coming days after the deadline for parties to submit names of candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had elapsed.
This implies that the APC may not field candidates for the 2019 polls in the state, as the local government and ward congresses held by the party in May are null and void going by the apex court judgement.
The Court of Appeal had on June 21, 2018 set aside the ruling of Justice A C Nwosu of the Rivers State High Court, which restrained the APC from conducting the congresses pending the determination of the substantive suit.
But the Supreme Court, in its ruling yesterday, voided the decision of the Court of Appeal.
Justice Centus Chima Nweze, who read the ruling in an appeal filed by plaintiff, Abdulahi Umar, held that the Court of Appeal ought not to have vacated the injunctive order issued against the APC by the Rivers State High Court on the conduct of the congresses.
The Supreme Court declared that it was unfortunate and wrongful for the appellate court to have entertained a party in contempt of a valid court order to the extent of granting judicial favour by way of staying of execution of an injunctive order when the party at the center of the dispute was in gross contempt of court.
While the injunctive order of the High Court was subsisting, the APC went ahead and conducted the ward, local government and state congresses on May 19, 20 and 21.
After the conduct of the congresses, the Court of Appeal, in a ruling on an application brought before it by APC seeking stay of execution of the High Court injunctive order and stay of proceedings of the main suit, vacated the injunctive order and refused to stay hearing on the substantive matter, prompting Umar to approach the Supreme Court.
In its judgement yesterday, the apex court berated the appellate court for judicially indulging APC and vacating the injunctive order in the party’s favour when there is abundant evidence that the APC was in contempt of court.
The Supreme Court also held that the Court of Appeal ought not to have granted its discretion in favour of APC because the party was in grave violation of the order of the High Court.
Justice Nweze noted that the appellate court has a duty to protect a lawful subsisting order and ought not to have granted favourable judicial discretion for a party that willingly disobeyed valid court order.
He stated: “It is unfortunate and wrongful for the Court of Appeal to have entertained a party in contempt of a valid court order to the extent of granting judicial favour by way of staying of execution of an injunctive order when the party at the center of the dispute was in gross contempt of court.
“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 to two lawful court orders.
“It is sacrilegious, ill-fated and suicide mission for the Court of Appeal to have departed from various decisions of the Supreme Court that any party in contempt of court ought not to be granted judicial discretion and in this matter, Appeal Court is bound to follow Supreme Court final decision.
Justice Nweze said the refusal of the Court of Appeal to be bound by final decision of Supreme Court is a gross insubordination.
Accordingly, he nullified and set aside the decision of the appellate court delivered on June 21, 2018.
But the APC in Rivers State yesterday debunked reports on social media that Supreme Court nullified the ward, local government and state congresses as well as primaries organised by the party in the state.
Publicity secretary of APC in Rivers State, Senibo Chris Finebone, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday, said the Supreme Court only set aside the stay of execution order of the Court of Appeal over the ruling of a Rivers State High Court in a suit against the party by Ibrahim Ima and 22 others.
The statement reads in part: “The Rivers State Chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), would like to state, for the avoidance of doubt, that in the appeal filed at the Supreme Court by Ibrahim Umar & 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 Supreme Court only granted the appeal in parts and did not make any consequential order, as that can only be subject matter at the Appeal Court when the hearing on the appeal of the State High Court judgment commences.
“According to Counsel to APC, The Supreme Court today allowed the appellants’ appeal which was against the stay of Order of Injunction of 11/05/2018.The court said the order should not have been stayed.
“The Supreme Court made no orders except to set aside the Court of Appeal order. That clears the way for hearing of the main appeal at Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt against the judgment of the High Court. Their prayer that Supreme Court should hear the pending appeal at Court of Appeal was rejected. The appeal is to be heard and determined by Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt.
“We call on all APC members to remain steadfast and refuse to be distracted as ultimate victory is assured. Those claiming victory and dancing in the streets are doing so either out of ignorance or out to deceive others.”
90% Of APC Members Are Behind Me– Oshiomhole
Meanwhile, the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomole declared yesterday that 90 per cent of party members are solidly behind him.
This is coming on the heels of reports that 15 of the 23 governors of the APC had finalised the plan to remove him and are about forcing a national executive committee (NEC) meeting to unseat him.
Speaking to State House correspondents yesterday, Oshiomole said only one or two governors of the party are not comfortable with him remaining in office.
According to him, the governors who are not impressed with his style fell out with him because he insisted on following due process.
He explained that under his leadership, the party is working consciously to entrench the core values of progressive politics, which is that the people must necessarily lead.
He said, “There maybe one or two governors who have issues and those issues can only be resolved democratically within the spirit, the letter and all the relevant provisions of APC Constitution, Electoral Guidelines and of course the Electoral Act. The Electoral Act is completely blind and our party rules too are completely blind to power, that it is sensitive to procedures and it is sensitive to processes.
“The good news is that the overwhelming majority, we have about 23 governors, I think we are very much happy, I don’t have issues with anyone, only one or two may have some situation that they may want to see differently but that is how the world is.
“It is not correct to suggest that there is a move, though one governor has publicly said he will ensure that I am removed. That is fine; the beauty of democracy is that any one or two could say something, but the majority is what matters.
“But I think even those two, when they have deeper reflection, they will recognize that all I have done is to stubbornly insist that the rules must be obeyed, nothing more, and nothing less”.
On the plot to remove him as APC chairman, Oshiomhole said, “I need to consult a lawyer who understands legal language to decode it to my layman understanding to be able to deal with it. But the only thing I just want to clarify is that I have seen banner headlines. People are just calling me that there is crisis in APC, that my office is under threat, some APC persons are very angry and all that.’
“I just want to say that this is my finest hour. I am being encouraged by the level of participation in our primaries and of course the more open, the more the democratic process is.
“Most people today who are actively involved in politics that we might describe as not too young to run, the only model that they have seen was the PDP model which ran for 16 years. So understandably, the culture of opposition, the culture of cheating, the culture of power determining outcome has been so well entrenched”.
He noted that what he is trying to do under his leadership of the APC is to work consciously to entrench the core values of progressive politics.
He continued: “Yes we recognise power, yes we recognise protocol but at the end of the day, power must flow from the membership when it comes to primaries and it must flow from the Nigeria people when it comes to the popular election.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I have been committed, I am organized. It has been in history that I have organised a huge rally, which was solely dedicated to the history of one-man-one-vote campaign.
“I organised that when I was in Edo State. I fought and I defeated the rigging machine. So, having done that I now being privileged to be chairman of All Progressives Congress, I cannot watch people who have power try to suppress those who are powerless.
“Somehow it has been my lot to be on the side of the oppressed, whether that oppressed is a worker, whether he is a Senator or House of Reps member.
Saraki Now History In Kwara Politics, Says Governorship Candidate
Meanwhile, the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in Kwara State, Abdulraman Abdulrazaq, has declared that the era of Senate President Bukola Saraki’s stronghold on the state politics is over.
He stated this yesterday when he led members of the party from the three senatorial zones of Kwara State on a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa.
Abdulrazaq said, “Kwara has become a battle ground and as you can see, we have come here to see Mr President haven gone through a hectic process of primaries. We went through direct primaries in which about a 100,000 party faithful voted.
“We had our difficulties but we have come to see the president to tell him that all is well and we are in unison and he has given us matching orders to go and take Kwara.
On Saraki’s stronghold in Kwara politics, he said, “He (Saraki) is history. We have gone pass him and we are looking at government house
On his part, President Buhari said the late Major General Tunde Idiagbon was a very rare example of what loyalty to fatherland and to a superior should be.
“Tunde was strong, loyal and extremely committed to the cause of positively changing the narrative about Nigeria, which the administration set out to do at that time,” the president said.
President Buhari recalled how his former deputy who was on pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia when the administration was overthrown in 1985, insisted on returning to the country despite the political uncertainty, especially as he had learnt that he, as Commander-in-Chief at that time, had not been killed in the take-over.
The President added that the late Idiagbon rejected the offer from the King of Saudi Arabia to bring members of his (Idiagbon) family from Nigeria to the Kingdom, as he was his guest at that time, and eventually returned to Nigeria to suffer arrest like he (Buhari) did.