NIGERIA: Appeal Court Reserves Judgment in APGA Leadership Dispute

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The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal has reserved judgment in the appeal filed by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, and National Secretary, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi, to challenge the decision of a Federal High Court Abuja which relieved them of their positions respectively.
The reservation of the judgment came as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) told the appellate court that it wants to remain neutral in the matter as according to it, the appeal was an intra-party dispute.
The court presided over by Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya reserved judgment after counsel in the matter had adopted their briefs of argument.
Counsel to Umeh and Shinkafi, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who led Patrick Ikwueto, (SAN), had while adopting his brief of arguments, declared that judicial indiscipline and rascality must stop.
According to him, a situation where lower courts foist jurisdiction on themselves to adjudicate over matters that had already been heard and determined by superior courts of law must stop.
He said: "This appeal covers various areas of our jurisprudence including the sacred issue of judicial discipline and rascality.
"Can a high court judge competently sit on an appeal over the decision of a superior court? It covers the field whether or not  a high court has jurisdiction over the internal affairs of a political party."
He told the court that the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, had granted a stay of execution of the judgment of the Enugu State High Court, which voided the national convention where the appellants were elected the national officers of APGA on April 8, 2013.
Olanipekun said: "That was the day the first respondent (Maxi Okwu) said he was elected as the national chairman.
"At the time he was purportedly elected, he was an expelled member of APGA. He (Okwu) said he was re-admitted into the party in January 2013 and he is now challenging an election that was held while he was still expelled.
"After he was purportedly re-admitted, the membership card at the court below he presented was signed by the first appellant (Umeh) and second appellant (Shinkafi) as National Chairman and National Secretary respectively and he is now challenging the election that brought them into office. It is just like a young boy who questions the identity of his father."
Olanikpekun noted: "This abuse of court process must stop. A typical example of this impunity is the letter written by the first respondent to INEC in August 2012 as the National Chairman of Citizens Popular Party (CPP) and this man came back in 2013 and is challenges the convention conducted by APGA in 2011 when he was a chairman of another political party. Every lower court  is bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal and the first respondent (Okwu) is in contempt of the subsisting decision of the Court of Appeal when he went ahead to say that he was elected the National Chairman of APGA on the same date the said order of stay of execution was granted by the Court of Appeal.
Counsel to Okwu and the four other respondents, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), had while adopting his brief told the court that the appeal was incompetent and should be dismissed.
He said:  "In the arguments, we have shown that the appeal is incompetent as it does not have the particulars required in law.  We adopt our brief of argument and I submit that we adopt the issues for determination in a distilled manner, the appeal has not in any way challenged the two major decisions of the court below as contained in the judgment, that the purported election of the appellants was inconsistent with the constitution of APGA and that the appellants have been in office beyond the constitutional provisions of the party's constitution.
"When there is no provision for a third term, the parties have the responsibilities to abide with the provisions of their party constitution, this was what the court below did and came to the conclusion that they have not complied with the provisions of the party's constitution."
Counsel to INEC, Ibrahim Bawa, had said the commission did not have a position in the matter because the issues raised in the case were internal affairs of APGA.
He said: "We were only dragged to this court and we don't want to take sides. We want to remain neutral. As it is an intra party dispute."
Justice Abdul Kafarati had on January 15 sacked the Umeh leadership of APGA, and made an order that Okwu and his group were the authentic leaders of the party.
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