The National Executive Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) violated the party’s constitution in the appointment of three state governors as members of the party’s National Caretaker Committee, PREMIUM TIMES can report.
NEC had on Thursday dissolved the National Working Committee (NWC) led by Adams Oshiomhole and appointed a 13-member caretaker committee in its place to steer the affairs of the party for six months.
The NEC meeting, held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, and attended by President Muhammadu Buhari, mandated the committee to organise a national convention within the period to elect new members of the NWC.
The meeting also directed members to withdraw all pending cases in court.
It also ratified the party’s governorship primary in Edo State won by Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Apart from Mr Buhari, others who participated in the meeting were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, state governors and other members of NWC and NEC.
The three governors who are members of the 13-member NCC are Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, Isiaka Oyetola of Osun State and Sani Bello of Niger State.
Other members of the committee, which is chaired by Mr Buni, are former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former senator, John James Akpanudoedehe (who will serve as secretary); the APC candidate in the November 2019 Bayelsa governorship candidate, David Lyon; Tahir Mamman; a senator, Abubakar Yusuf; and a member of the House of Representatives, Akinremi Olaide.
Stella Okotete and James Lalu, Ismail Ahmed and Abba Ari were also named as members of the committee.
Mr Buni, national secretary of the APC until last year, was immediately sworn-in by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, at the meeting.
However, this newspaper has now found that NEC violated Article 17 (iv) of the APC Constitution (October 2014 as amended).
The article states that “No officer in any organ of the Party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently.”
The position of the governor of a state in Nigeria is an executive one and therefore the trio should not have been named into the committee.
Ken Asogwa, a lawyer, lamented that NEC breached the provision of the constitution despite the Supreme Court’s decision, urging political parties in the country to always obey rules they set for themselves.
“It has been decided by the Supreme Court that political parties or organisations are bound by the rules or constitutions governing them,” Mr Asogwa told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday.
“Article 17 (iv) of the APC is clearly unambiguous. So to the extent that the three governors in government, the decision of the APC NEC to appoint them (governors) into the caretaker committee clearly breaches the rules the party set for itself.
“In Buhari V INEC (2008), APV V Karfi (2018) and APC V Mararafa (2019), the apex court held that a political party is bound to obey all electoral laws, including its own constitution and guidelines.”
A Lagos-based lawyer who does not want to be quoted, said the party did not only violate its own law by naming the governors as members of NCC, it breached other aspects of the constitution.
He however told this newspaper that NEC “may want to wriggle out by arguing that the case was not that being already officers of the party, they were subsequently elected or appointed into a public office.”
He added that “The reverse is the case. That is, they were already holding public offices before they were made interim officers of the party. The argument will not be tenable.”
But another lawyer, Monday Ejeh, said NEC did not contravene the APC constitution to the extent that the caretaker committee was not listed as an organ of the party
He said, “It is clear that the committee set up by the National Executive Committee of the APC pursuant to their powers under Article 18 (1) is not listed as part of the organs of the party.
“If this is so, it cannot be said that the NEC of the party contravened the Constitution of the party. This is basically a non-issue as the constitution is clear. Those assuming that the NEC breached the constitution by making some state governors members of the committee have only failed to appreciate the provisions of Article 11 of the Constitution of the APC which clearly states the organs of the party.
“Article 11 is restrictive as to the committees amounting to party organs and has no room for ad hoc committees to become party organs.
In the same vein, Yomi Ogunsanya, another lawyer, said, the NEC conformed to the party’s laws because “the governors do not occupy any executive position in any organ of the party. More so the constitution did not state the requirements for appointment into any committee that may be set up by the party.”
Members of the dissolved NWC had initially faulted the decision of NEC to replace them with a caretaker committee, citing Article 25 (B) of the party’s constitution.
The 18 members of the NWC led by Hilliard Eta, who was holding brief for Abiola Ajimobi, who died on the same day the organ was dissolved, had questioned the propriety of Victor Giadom, then a deputy national deputy national secretary of the party to convene the NEC meeting.
It subsequently announced its readiness to challenge the action of the NEC.
However, a day after, two members of the dissolved NWC, broke their rank.
Former spokesperson of the party, Lanre Issa-Onilu and Musbau Lawal, lauded Mr Buhari and other party leaders for convening the NEC meeting to resolve the crisis bedevilling the party.
There are however indications that the former NWC members may have rescinded their decision to go to court.
Immediate past National Secretary, Waziri Bulama, said the former NWC members had accepted the NEC decision to dissolve them.
“Following consultations with our leaders and all the stakeholders, we have accepted the decision of the president on the dissolution of NWC and the setting up of a Caretaker Committee headed by Governor Mai Mala Buni.
“We are respecting the president. We are not antagonistic. All the views we expressed were in the light of the constitution of the party,” Mr Bulama told journalists in Abuja just as the Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum and Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, said the threat to go to court by some member of the former NWC was a creation of the media.
On Saturday, Mr Oshiomhole said he accepted the dissolution of the NWC just as he refused to be drawn into the legality or otherwise of NEC’s action.