20 February 2013

Nigeria: APGA - Has Enugu Murdered Justice?

In only one month, many events have happened in Nigeria's political scenes that have signposted adverse future for multiparty democracy in Nigeria. From the Attahiru Jega-led INEC came the shocking announcement within the period under review that it has de-registered over a dozen registered political parties out of the nearly fifty political parties.

The reason adduced for this anti-democratic posture of the electoral body for curtailing the democratic freedoms of some Nigerians by the unilateral and unconstitutional annulment of the over one dozen political parties is that those political platforms were not viable and have failed to win any elective position in the 2011 general elections.

Bizarre and illogical as the reason offered by INEC for demolishing these political structures appears, the Enugu State High Court has also added to the unfolding drama of a well coordinated war against multiparty democracy when the Chief Judge, Innocent Umezuruike wielded the big stick by sacking the entire national executive committee of the All progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) headed by Victor Umeh.

To add further funfare to the entire drama, the judge comically ordered for the conduct of fresh election by the APGA given that the tenure of the dismissed national hierarchy had lapsed, according to Justice Umezuruike, since the year 2010.

I will say that what played out in form of a court verdict at the Enugu High Court was a huge comedy because if the judge sacked the entire national executive committee of a legally existing political party, how on earth does he expect that fresh election would be conducted to fill up the vacancies that arose from the court intervention given that the extant party's constitution governing APGA recognizes the national executive council as the only legal entity to convoke a national convention for the purpose of organizing fresh election? Umezuruike's verdict is as good as asking that APGA should rest in peace but this is considered as a grave abuse of the tenet of justice.

Umeh, who is the hardest hit had this to say; "I am going to appeal immediately and put a stay of execution on this judgment until the Court of Appeal reviews it. I also have a right of further appeal to the Supreme Court.By sacking the party's National Working Committee (NWC) that was elected at the national convention of February 10, 2011, Justice Umezururike has completely decapitated APGA and left it without a leadership. This is like removing the head of a trailer and the bodies of the trailer can no longer move", so says Umeh.

"By this judgment, there is no organ of the party left to execute the orders he made, therefore the orders are in vain. Nobody, including Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, the sponsor of this suit, can derive any benefit from the judgment until the matter is determined at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court", he stressed.

Most observers with extensive knowledge of the workings of the Nigerian law say that the above interpretation of the controversial verdict of Umezuruike as opined by Chief Umeh is logically sound.

The judge ruled that Umeh should stop parading himself as the party's national chairman since, "his tenure ended on December 2, 2010". The judge asked members of the party to take steps to convoke a national convention for the purposes of electing membership into the party's NEC in line with the party's constitution. But I ask, did Justice Umezurike read the extant constitution of APGA registered with the electoral commission before reaching this bizarre determination?

Umezuruike was ruling in a case brought by former chairman of the party for Udi council, Jude Okuli asking the court to determine whether by virtue of the proper interpretation of Section 18;2,3,4 and 5 of APGA constitution, Umeh should remain the national chairman after four years in office without re-election.

On February 10, 2011 at Awka, Anambra State, Umeh had sought and secured the consent of the party to continue as the national chairman after his first four years in office, which he began in 2006 expired. Now the Enugu Chief Judge has pronounced the process a nullity. Why would the Enugu State Chief Judge not excuse himself from the matter he has now ruled even when it was clear from the beginning that the Umeh protested vehemently that he does not trust the integrity and impartiality of Umezurike?

Before this matter was filed, two significant political scenarios emerged. First, the Enugu State governor Sullivan Chime had predicted the demise of the All Progressives Grand Alliance. While the party leadership under Chief Umeh were criticizing the Enugu State chief executive for making such a comment, a man suspected to have been expelled from the party who incidentally comes from same local government as the Enugu State governor, filed the matter before the Enugu State High Court which has now returned this seemingly ridiculous verdict which on the face value seems to have sounded the death knell on the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), thus actualizing the "prophesy" made by the Enugu State governor that APGA will die before 2015.

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