Judex Okoro, Calabar
The crisis rocking Cross River State chapter of the All Progressive Congress (APC) took a new turn when an Abuja High Court declared as null and void, as well as of no effect, the rescheduled state congress conducted on August 22 and 23, 2018.
The APC national leadership had ordered rescheduled congresses in the state, to put to an end, the lingering leadership tussle, which got to a climax during the June nationwide congresses.
That congress threw up two factional state executives; one led by Etim John, with Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani as the major backer, and the other led by Dr. Mathew Achigbe, backed by the South-South vice chairman, Hiliard Eta and John Owan Enoh.
However, the rescheduled congress, which held on August 23, 2018, re-elected Dr. Mathew Achigbe as state chairman, even as there were alleged injunctions restraining them from conducting the said congress.
Not relenting, the counsel to Etim John-led factional executive, Ebuka Nwaeze, filed a motion dated August 23 on August 27, 2018, at Abuja High Court, seeking for nullification of the said congress.
Ruling in a suit No. FCT/HC/BW/W/106/2018 AND Motion NO. FCT/HC/BW/M/274/2018, the presiding judge, Justice O.A. Musa, on September 20, 2018, declared as “null and void, the congresses held in Cross River on August 23 and 25, 2018, and of no effect.”
The order further restrained “INEC from recognising any purported congress by APC from August 8, 2018, pending the determination of the suit.
The order directed APC and INEC to continue to “recognise and deal with the claimant as the lawful state executives of the Cross River chapter.”
Justice Musa added that “this order is meant to instill or ingrain discipline into political parties, and for it to follow the rule of law, and that they should know better and any nomination made in disagreement of this order shall be void.” The plaintiffs to the suit include Mr. Silvester Ekpo, APC southern senatorial district, Mrs. Eugenia Takom, Ex officio I, and Mr. Charles Asim, APC Cross River youth leader.
In his reaction, secretary of Etim John faction, Chief Francis Ekpenyong, said the judgment has put an end to the embattled state chapter of the party.
He said: “Based on the judgment, it is only my exco that has the capacity to field candidates and whatever they are doing is illegal. We are not going to fight whatever they are doing, but, we are going to call all of them in.
“I know the screening committee for House of Assembly is in Calabar and we will talk to them and ask them to return to the authentic secretariat of APC in Cross River state so that we can normalise those processes because we want to win elections.”
Briefing some newsmen in his office, the state chairman, Dr. Mathew Achigbe, urged all party members in the state not to be distracted by reports about any renewed crisis or faction in the leadership of the state chapter but that they should remain united and fixed on the single goal of winning the 2019 elections in the state.
He said the Abuja High Court ruling does not affect the new exco elected recently as the national secretariat is capable of handling it.