• Plaintiff wants court to invalidate exercise
•Amaechi, Abe supporters flex muscles in Rivers
• Crises persist in Kaduna, Benue, Kogi, others
Fear, tension and anxiety seems to loom over the country as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) holds its National Congress today, May 5, 2018.
The ruling party has been having internal crisis of different categories especially of leadership continuity while the last National Working Committee (NEC) directed that congresses should be held to elect new executives at all levels.
As the party prepares for this congress today, a member of the party, Udo Ibe has approached an Abuja High Court, asking it to issue an injunction retraining the ruling party from holding the congress.
In the suit filed before the court Ibe is asking the court to issue a declaration to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to de-register the party, saying that the court should grant the pleas following the party’s purported breach of its constitution, the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act.
Lawyer to the plantiff, Kalu Kalu named the first and second defendants as APC and INEC respectively.
Ibe accused the party in his ward, Akanu Ohofia in Ohofia Local Government Area of Abia State, of parading an executive committee whose tenure has expired.
He is also seeking a declaration from the court that with the expiration of the party’s executive at the ward level, the party did not have the power to conduct a ward or local government congress for the purposes of electing its executive committee and delegates to state congress and national convention.
He prayed the court to declare that in the absence of a lawfully constituted ward/local government congress, the first defendant (the APC) also lacks the lawful capacity to conduct its state congress and national convention for the purpose of electing state and national officers in accordance with its constitution, the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act.
Ibe, therefore, asked the court to: “Issue a perpetual injunction restraining the second defendant from conducting any ward congress, local government area congress, state congress or the national convention of the first defendant without adhering to the provisions of articles 12 and 13 of its said constitution, the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act.
“A declaration that in exercise of its powers under section 85(2) of the Electoral Act 2010, the second defendant can only monitor a congress or convention of the first defendant lawfully constituted and not otherwise in accordance with its constitution.
“A declaration that the first defendant ought to be deregistered by the second defendant as provided under section 78 (7) of the Electoral Act for being in breach of the following conditions of registration as stipulated in the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act:
Holding periodic election as provided in the constitution in that the first defendant did not conduct a ward or local government congress for the purpose of conducting the business of the ward or the local government before expiration of the ward or the local government area executive committees.
“Running its affairs at the ward or local government levels without the election of an executive committee or any executive at all as the tenure of the elected has expired”.
Also in Bayelsa State, confusion trails the party congress as a Sagbama High Court in Yenagoa on Friday, ordered the immediate reinstatement of the embattled party State Chairman, Chief Tiwei Orunimighe, months after his alleged sack.
The reinstated party chairman, Chief Tiwei Orunimighe, in the suit numbered SHC/12/2018 had dragged the APC, the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to court challenging his removal over alleged misconduct and anti-party activities.
The claimant on April 26 filed a motion praying the court to issue an order directing the defendants to recognise and deal with him as the chairman of APC pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
He also sought an order directing the defendants to accord him with all the rights and privileges as the APC chairman as well as order directing that nobody apart from him should exercise and perform the functions of the APC chairman.
In his verdict on the matter, Justice E.G. Omukoro granted all the reliefs sought by Oruminighe.
Omukoro had in his judgment, a copy of which was made available to newsmen, said: “I am persuaded and inclined to grant the reliefs sought as they are preservative in nature and intended to protect the applicant’s lawfully and judicially recognised office from threats”.
Already, loyalists of the reinstated party chairman, Chief Tiwei Orunimighe, are gearing up to move back to the party secretariat along the Mbiama/Yenagoa road and occupy it till the expiration of his tenure.
Orunimighe is expected to commence the processes of conducting the ward, local and state Congresses of the party and the big question is: will today’s event in the state be free, fair and safe?
The Daily Times recalls that the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC had expelled Orunimighe following allegations of anti-party activities and appointed Josef Fafi the acting Chairman of the party in the state.
Meanwhile, uncertainty surrounds today’s APC Congress in Rivers State as shooting and violence became the order of the day at the APC secretariat, Port Harcourt, on Friday, as the party prepared for today’s congress.
The party secretariat along Forces Avenue, GRA Phase 2, was attacked and vandalised by some angry youths as the whereabouts of electoral materials to be used in the conduct of the party’s congress was unknown at press time.
An eye witness revealed that most supporters of Senator Magnus Abe, who arrived at the secretariat early on Friday were allegedly dispersed with live bullets fired by some security personnel to disperse aggrieved members of the party who were angry that forms for elective offices were not available after they had made valid payments.
There were widespread allegations that the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, had diverted the electoral materials to the operational premises of a firm at Onne, in Eleme Local Government Area.
At about 7pm on Friday, no member of the State Executive Council, SEC, of the APC in Rivers State was at the secretariat as windows, doors, and televisions amongst others at the secretariat were shattered by irate members of the party who felt short-changed by some leaders of the SEC.
Briefing newsmen at his campaign office, on Friday, Senator Magnus Abe, a key contender for the governorship position on the party’s platform, regretted that some leaders of the party were bent on truncating the congresses for their selfish interest.
He alleged that “the leaders of the South South met at the residence of the minister of transportation, who is the leader of the party in the South South zone, at Abuja, and agreed to address issues concerning the ward congresses”.
“He excused himself in the course of the meeting to attend to other matters of state. The Chairman of the South South congresses, Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, assured us that all issues concerning the congresses will be addressed on Thursday and Friday when all stakeholders are expected to meet in their states.
“Up till now, the meeting of party leaders has not held in Rivers State. We have not seen any member of the SEC. All we are hearing is that electoral materials have been taken to a firm. The firm is not the secretariat of the APC in Rivers State.
“Our worry is that some leaders of the party deliberately want to obstruct the ward, local governments and state congresses in the state. We are appealing to the national leadership of the party to do what is right to ensure a free, fair, peaceful, and credible congresses in Rivers State,” Abe stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Rivers APC, Mr. Finebone, told journalists that “the destruction you see here tells the story of what happened. The police have held some persons including Chidi Wihioka, a federal lawmaker”.
He said the entire office has been looted. Computers, ACs, flags, furniture, and every property were looted.
“You can see the windows shattered. The only thing they failed to do was burn the place down. They brought a drum of diesel for the purpose but the police stopped them,” Finebone said.
However, by 5.pm on Friday, some court officials arrived Senator Abe’s campaign office, Freedom House, brandishing a court injunction, restraining the party from going ahead with the ward Congress today.
As at press time, the court order was given to newsmen as the court officials were said to be heading to the party secretariat and all order affected party members to serve the order.
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has alleged that the illegal use of operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and military personnel to cause rancour ahead of the APC Congress in the state has vindicated him.
He stated that the series of statements released by APC stakeholders on the illegal activities of SARS Personnel in the course of today’s congress should draw the attention of all well-meaning lovers of democracy.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the retired military and para-military officers of Ogoni extraction at the Government House, Port Harcourt, on Friday, Governor Wike said if security agencies could be negatively used during a party congress, Nigerians should expect electoral mischief, masterminded by security agencies in 2019.
He said: “In an ordinary party congress, over a platoon of soldiers and more than 200 SARS Personnel have been handed over to one man. These operatives protect just one man, while other communities are left without protection.
“Even the notorious election rigger, SARS Commander, Akin Fakorede, is operating without check because he has the support of the Police High Command “.
He said that conflicts during elections were generated by those he described as overzealous security agents, detailed to manipulate the process.
The governor urged the retired military and paramilitary senior officers to use their contacts in the military to prevail on them to respect the rule of law in a democracy.
Kaduna and Benue states are equally not free from crises including Kogi where groups loyal to the embattled Senator Dino Melaye representing Kogi Central in the Senate asked all the supporters to boycott today’s congress , claiming it will not be free and fair.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has departed Abuja for his hometown, Daura, in Katsina State to take part in Ward Congress of his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) holding across the country today.
Buhari embarked on the trip on Friday, a few hours after his return from the United States of America where he met with President Donald Trump and discussed some issues including nation’s security challenges.
The President, who left Washington DC on Tuesday, arrived in Abuja on Thursday evening after having a stopover in London, United Kingdom.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had earlier in the day attributed the “technical stopover” to the fact that the big aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet is currently under repairs.
The presidential aide explained that the President is currently using a smaller aircraft that has a limit on the distance it can cover, hence the decision to have a stopover in the British capital.
He explained further that the stopover was meant to refuel and carry out some checks on the aircraft before proceeding on the journey saying, “there was nothing unusual about the issue, the President was already on his way back to the country”.
The presidential spokesman said: “The big jet is under repairs. It has been taken for major repairs. So the President is using a small place and there is a limit to the distance the small place can cover.
“So the technical stopover I talked about is that the journey from US to Abuja is broken into two. Technical stopover is that the plane stops at a point, refuel, do some checks and then proceed on the journey. This is very normal. There is nothing unusual about it. In any case, they are already on their way back home.
“It is a routine thing. The plane can do Abuja-Washington, that’s about 12 hours and the maximum the plane can fly is 12 hours, 40 minutes. But you don’t need to push it to the edge”, he added.