Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Court sacks Umeh, reinstates Okwu as APGA national chairman

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, sacked the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh from office and directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to forthwith, recognise Chief Maxi Okwu as the chairman of the party.
The court presided by Justice Abdulkadir Abdul-Kafarati further ordered the National Secretary of the party, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi and other members of the National Working Committee, NWC, elected alongside Umeh at a convention held on February 18, 2011, in Awka Anambra State, to vacate their respective offices.
Aside Okwu, the court also directed the electoral umpire to henceforth relate with Mr. Ibrahim Carefor, Chief Dickson Ogu, Dr. Gbenga Afeni and Alhaji Abubakar Adamu as the duly elected national officers of APGA. They all emerged from a separate convention of the party that also held in Awka on April 8, 2013.

Victor Umeh
Meanwhile, Umeh, has kicked against the verdict, filed an appeal and insisted that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit. His team had also dragged Justice Kafarati before the National Judicial Council, NJC.
Specifically, Justice  Kafarati ruled that "Umeh and Shinkafi (1st and 2nd defendants), having been expelled from the party whether lawfully or unlawfully, regularly or irregularly, cannot validly continue to occupy the positions of National Chairman and National Secretary, respectively when the suit they filed challenging their said expulsion has not been decided and in their favour."
He maintained that "the 2nd Defendant, having first been elected National Secretary of the party on January 10, 2003, which is over 10 years ago, cannot validly continue in office 10 years after he was first elected when by Article 18(2) of the Constitution of the party, any official of the party can only stay in office for a maximum of two terms of four years each."
The judge equally noted that both the defendants were voted into office by voice votes rather than secret ballot as stipulated by the Constitution of APGA, a process he said, invalidated their emergence as valid national officers of the party.
He stressed that unless and until the judgement of the Awka High Court given in a suit that was earlier filed by one Michael Joe Onwudinjo, which had recognised the Okwu-led faction of the party, was set aside by a higher court, it remained binding, subsisting and must be obeyed by INEC.
Efforts to get Okwu to react to the verdict, yesterday, did not yield dividend as several calls to his mobile phone number did not go through.
However, a press statement by his Senior Media Assistant, Victor Chigozie Eneh, showed the joy that has enveloped Okwu's camp.
Outlining how the details of the judgement, Eneh expressed happiness that Justice Abdulkadir Abdul-Kafarati granted all the reliefs sought by Okwu.
Meantime, the Umeh- led faction of the party, yesterday, took the matter before the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja, alleging that the trial judge engaged in acts of judicial rascality.
It contended that the Enugu Division of the Appeal Court had ab-initio okayed the indefinite suspension of all the Okwu-led executives from the party and stressed that the Supreme Court was already aware of the facts of the case.
Accusing the judge of overreaching his powers by delving into an issue they contended was purely within the purview of domestic affairs of a political party, Umeh and his faction, yesterday, equally filed a motion for an order staying the execution of the judgment pending the hearing and determination of their appeal.
More so, the defendants, through their lawyer, Chief Patrick N. Ikwueto, SAN, also applied for an order of injunction restraining the Okwu-led faction from interfering in the leadership and management of APGA in any manner whatsoever, including by way of dealing with INEC as officers of APGA and or from parading themselves as the validly elected national officers of the party, pending the outcome of the appeal they lodged yesterday.
It was their argument that the high court lacked the juris

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