TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has declared Igo Aguma, the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Also, the court mandated the party to allow members of the party loyal to Senator Magnus Abe, who purchased form for the congresses of the party in 2018, to take part in the process.
Justice George Omereji gave these rulings yesterday, in two separate suits instituted by Dele Moses and nine others and Igo Aguma, a chieftain of the party, on different matters in the crisis rocking the party in Rivers.
Aguma, a former member of the House of Representatives, had sought the court to declare the Caretaker Committee brought by the National Working Committee of the party as void, and declare him to head the affairs of the state by virtue of his position as the national delegate and statutory member of the party.
Justice Omereji, in his judgement after the submissions of the claimant’s counsel, Echezona Etiaba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), declared that Aguma had the locus standi to approach the court.
He added that there was issue of injustice and violation of civil right of the applicant.
On issues of jurisdiction as raised by the defendants, Omereji held that the court had the right to entertain the matter to see whether the rights of the claimants were violated.
He added that defendants in the case did not establish that the claimant has no locus standi and had provided no evidence to show that he (Aguma) did not exhaust all the avenues in the party before approaching the court.
He also ruled that the suit was not an abuse of the court process, because he (Aguma) only requested that the APC rules should be followed.
The judge noted that the claimant being a former member of House of Representatives met the requirements of a statutory member.
Justice Omereji ruled that no section of the APC constitution prohibits the statutory members of the party not to carry out the duties of the State Executive Committee in their absence.
He said that in the case, such lacuna that would warrant the setting up of the Committee by the National body of the party has not arisen because there was still the State Executive Committee of the party in the state.
He held: “It is my view that the appointment of the caretaker of the Committee without inclusion of the national delegate and SEC is a violation of the party’s constitution. All the National Convention delegates and State Executive Committee members should be part of the caretaker Committee.”
He noted that the tenure of the caretaker committee of the party elapsed in September, noting that the continuous stay of the caretaker committee was null and void.
Omereji granted all the prayers of the claimant, Aguma, and held that the decision of the court should be given immediate effect to enable the second party to rebuild itself.
On the matter brought by Dele Moses and nine others, Omereji ruled that only those who purchased the form to participate in the annulled congresses of the party in the state should participate in the congresses to be rescheduled by the party.
The judge granted all six prayers of the applicants, ruling that the court could interfere in the internal affairs of the party when the party constitution are not followed.
He held that democracy would be effective in the country when the parties have internal democracy, noting that the suit by Moses and others was justiceable.
He ruled that all the candidates and those excluded in the cancelled congresses were automatically to be allowed to participate in the process.
In his reaction after the court judgement, Aguma, said that the ruling has given the party opportunity to make peace, adding that the party was bigger than individuals.
Aguma promised not to compromise the confidence reposed on him in piloting the affairs of the party, assuring that peace would be restored in the party.
However, counsel for the defendants, Emenike Ebete, said the decisions of the court on the two matters would be challenged at the Court of Appeal.