By Marcus Ikechukwu
Leaders and stakeholders of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) have insisted that Chief Edozie Njoku remains the authentic chairman of the party.
The party’s leadership has also cautioned the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of feigning ignorance to authenticate him (Njoku) as the lawful chairman, warning that its action may compromise a democratic process, especially as the 2023 general elections beckon.
A statement by Chief Chekwas Okorie, Founder and Presidential Candidate of APGA which was made available to Elendu Reports on Friday, noted that there will be no relenting in drawing the attention of Nigerians and the relevant authorities to the danger posed to the 2023 general election arising from the shocking prevarication of the INEC in recognizing Chief Njoku as the authentic and lawful National Chairman of APGA.
To make the facts clearer, Chekwas explained that in an application dated 6th May 2022, the counsel to Chief Njoku drew the attention of the panel of five Supreme Court Justices presided by Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili to the mistake contained in their judgment of 14th October 2021, which mistakenly referred to Dr Victor Oye as the National Chairman of APGA whose purported suspension by one Chief Jude Okeke was not justiciable.
He said the panel found this application to be meritorious, relying on Order 8, Rule 16 of the Supreme Court of Nigeria which states, “The Supreme Court can or by a letter (application) review any judgment once given and delivered by it save to correct any clerical mistake or some error arising from any accidental slip or omission, or do vary the judgment or order as to give effect to its meaning or intention”.
Okorie stated further that the panel promptly corrected the mistake which had earlier referred to Oye as National Chairman to now read, “ It needs to be stated at this point that the dispute being who should be acting National Chairman of the 1st respondent, APGA and whether the Chairman, Chief Edozie Njoku was validly replaced is within the confines of the internal affairs of the 1st respondent which is not justiciable. There are a plethora of judicial authorities on the point that this matter is cropping up at this time.”
According to APGA, “The corrected judgment also expunged the name of Dr Victor Oye as the 2nd respondent and replaced it with the name of Chief Edozie Njoku. This judgment was duly certified by the Registrar of the Supreme Court and signed by the Chairman of the panel, Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili delivered the lead judgment. INEC was duly served this corrected judgment. INEC also directed its legal team to obtain the Commission’s copy of the corrected judgment being the 4th respondent in the suit.”
He said similarly, Hon. Justice Mohammed Garba followed up and corrected his concurrence judgment accordingly.
He went further to trace the root of the leadership crisis in APGA to the national convention of the party held at Owerri on the 31st May 2019, which elected Chief Edozie Njoku as National Chairman of the party and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC).
He restated the position of the law that the lawful and legitimate outcome of the Owerri convention was not justiciable or could not be challenged in the law court being within the purview of APGA.
In the same token, Hon. Justice Kudirat Motonmori Olatokunbo Kekere-Ekun is the current Chairman of the panel following the retirement of Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili signed an enrolled order of the Supreme Court duly certified by the Registrar of the court giving authority to the correction of the judgment effected by the panel.
The APGA stakeholders also recalled that the Federal High Court in its judgment of 6th April 2022, presided by Hon. Justice A.R. Mohammed settled the controversy over which of the counsel represented the authentic APGA before the court and unequivocally settled as follows, ‘’In view of the position of the law as enunciated in the above-settled case and content of Exhibit CA2, this court has no option but to recognize C.N. Nwagbo Esq. as counsel authorized by the 4th applicant to institute this action in its name. For the avoidance of doubt, C.N. Nwagbo Esq. is the counsel that represented APGA that held a lawful and legitimate convention of the party at Owerri, Imo State, which elected Chief Edozie Njoku as the National Chairman and other members of the National Working Committee of the Party”. The certified true copy of the judgment was served on INEC and duly acknowledged, notwithstanding the fact that INEC is a party to this suit as well.”
“It becomes worrisome why INEC will prefer to continue dealing with the factional leadership of APGA which clearly lacks legal backing or legitimacy to enter into any form of transaction with the Commission on behalf of the party. The obvious implications of what INEC is doing in the matter of APGA is as follows:
“The authentic APGA is facing the existential problem of being excluded from participation in the forthcoming 2023 general election together with its candidates who have emerged through congresses and subsequent primaries in which appropriate notifications were given to INEC and such notifications duly acknowledged by the commission.
“The exclusion of APGA from participating in the 2023 general election shall result in the cancellation and nullification of the entire general election according to the clear provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The entire amount of about N350 billion appropriated by the National Assembly for the conduct of the 2023 general election will go down the drain.
“It stands to reason that the 29th May 2023 date for the inauguration of a new government in Nigeria may not be realized since the nation has to source fresh funds and produce a new timetable to conduct a fresh general election.”
“All of these ominous possibilities are avoidable if only INEC can do the right thing without further delay.”
“We hereby call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, the leadership of the National Assembly, Civil Society and pro-democracy organizations and well-meaning Nigerians to intervene in this matter before irreparable damage is done to our democratic process,” Okorie re-emphasized in his statement.