By Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Respite appears not to be in sight for the leadership of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) as more party members may, this week, file a fresh suit challenging last week’s extension of the tenure of the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) by the National Executive Committee(NEC).
The new plans being coordinated by some chieftains of the party are coming three days after a member of the Imo State chapter of the party, Mr.Okere Uzochukwu, filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, in which he parayed for the nullification of the extension.
APC NEC on Tuesday February 27 met and extended by one year the tenure of NWC. A total of 144 members voted for the extension while four voted against.
The tenure of the leadership of the ruling party at the state, local government and ward levels was also extended by one year .
With the extension, the tenure of the Oyegun-led NWC is billed to elapse in June. The party would have been forced to hold a national convention to elect new leaders if the tenure of the NWC had not been extended.
However, last Friday, Uzochukwu sued NEC over the extension ,claiming that it was a violation of the party’s constitution.
The plaintiff, who said he was an aspirant to the state chairmanship position of the party in Imo State, contended in the suit marked FHC /ABJ/ CS/219/ 2018 urged the court to compel the incumbent John Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC and others to vacate their respective offices with effect from June 1, 2018 , when they would have completed their four-year tenure.
He argued that the extension was undemocratic and violated the provisions of the constitution, the Electoral Act and the constitution of the party.
The APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are the first and second respondents in the case.
The plaintiff also sought an order compelling INEC to “reject, cease to recognise and stop dealing with or having official communications with the Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee” and others effective from June 1, 2018 “for having spent the constitutionally allowed tenure of office.”
Article 13.3(ii) of APC constitution says NEC is empowered to:
“Discharge all functions of the National Conventions as constituted in-between Conventions.”
National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi said NEC has not done anything wrong with the extension insisting that the provision vests power of taking such decision on the NEC.
However, those taking legal action against the party’s decision are relying on Article 30(1) of the APC constitution which vests the power on alteration of any of the party’s rule on the convention Article 30(i) provides that:
“This Constitution and Schedules hereto can be amended only by the National Convention of the Party”
Abdullahi declared that if such were to be the correct position, senior lawyers that were party to the NEC decision would have pointed it out.
“We have some members of NEC who are SAN. They were at the meeting, they would have said it if the NEC was doing the wrong thing. Governor of Ondo State, Akeredolu is a SAN; he was there. Our legal adviser is a senior lawyer; he was there,” he argued.
Reminded that Imo State Governor , Rochas Okorocha who is also the chairman of APC Governors Forum had reportedly raised the issue during the meeting, Abdullahi noted that the governor raised it after the decision had been taken.
However, an official of the party who did not want his name mentioned disclosed that some members of the party will approach the court this week to seek nullification of the extension.
“With all due respect, the NEC gave what it lacked power to give. Already, somebody has gone to court to challenge the decsion. More members will approach the court in the next few days to quash that decision. Those who are challenging the extension in court are not doing so because they have anything against the chairman or other NWC members. It’s simply to protect the constitution of the party. If the court says that our NEC acted in line with the constitution of the party, everybody will accept the ruling.”
But Abdullahi said the decision to challenge the decision of NEC in court is in bad taste.
“It amounts to anti-party activity for anybody to take NEC to court on this issue,” he insisted.
He, however, said those who wanted to go to court had constitutional right to challenge anything in court.
This is not the first time a political party would extend the tenure of its NWC. Prior to the 2015 general election, the NEC of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) extended the tenure of it’s NWC then led by Chief Victor Umeh.