The All Progressives Congress, APC, on Wednesday, challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Abuja to hear the suit seeking to nullify the one-year tenure extension that was granted to its National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and other members of its National Working Committee, NWC.
The party further queried the decision of the court to grant accelerated hearing to the legal action that was initiated on March 8 by four of its members who told the court that they are aspiring to run for leadership positions upon expiration of the current term of executives of the APC at various levels.
It will be recalled that the National Executive Council of the APC had at a meeting it held on February 27, 2018, extended the four-year tenure of the party officials due to expire on June 30, by one year.
However, the plaintiffs- Ademorin Kuye from Lagos State; Sani Mayanchi from Zamfara State and currently the Publicity Secretary of the party in the state; Are Mutiu also from Lagos State, and Machu Tokwat from Kaduna State, maintained that the action of the APC NEC was illegal.
Aside Odigie-Oyegun, others that the plaintiffs, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/237/2018, urged the court to compel to vacate their positions at the expiration of their current tenure, are officials of the party at the National, State, Local Government Area, and Ward level across the country.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceeding on the case on Wednesday, counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr. Jubrin Okutekpa, SAN, notified the court that President Muhammadu Buhari had at the National Executive Council meeting of the APC in Abuja on Tuesday, conceded that the tenure elongation was unconstitutional.
He said there was need for the court to expedite hearing of the suit so as to promptly reverse the illegal tenure extension that was condemned by President Buhari.
However, APC, through its lawyer, Mr. Joseph Daudu, SAN, urged the court to discountenance the submission which it said was misconceived. APC told the court that President Buhari was entitled to his personal views, saying he is an ordinary member of the party like others.
Daudu, SAN, said: “As far as President Buhari’s view are concerned, it carries no weight until the party meets and decide and deliberate on it. As far as the party is concerned, he is an ordinary member like others.” He said the party was inline with Order 7 Rule 1 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, entitled to 30 days from the date the suit was filed, to enter its defence. APC insisted that the suit raised serious constitutional issues, saying “for the interest of fair hearing, we are still within time to file our processes”.
Similarly, Odigie-Oyegun who is also a defendant in the suit, through his lawyer, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, aligned himself with the position of the party, even as he opposed the abridgement of time for hearing of the suit. On his part, the National Organising Secretary of the party Osita Izunaso who is also a defendant, challenged his inclusion in the matter. Izunaso, through his lawyer, Mr. James Onoja, SAN, further contended that he was not properly served with the court processes which he said was dumped at the APC secretariat.
Meantime, INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Idris Yakubu, told the court that the commission also raised a preliminary objection against the suit. In a bench ruling, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba said the court would adopt a procedure that would guarantee fair and expeditious hearing of the matter.