APC: Battle to sack Buni hots up

Gov. Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State: Chairman, National Caretaker Committee of APC:

Even with the release of the timetable for the local government congresses of the party, some members of the All Progressives Congress, APC are not convinced that the Governor Mai Mala Buni led Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee should continue to preside over the affairs of their party.

Some members of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP  and little known New Nigeria Peoples Party are also seeking to sack the APC Chairman from office.

The ruling and opposition party members have filed different suits in courts mostly in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, asking for the sacking of Buni, leveraging on the controversial Supreme Court judgment in Ondo governorship election.  

In their different suits, the APC and opposition party members argued that the Supreme Court judgment indicated that Governor  Buni cannot hold the positions of the Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee of APC while he is also the  governor of Yobe State.

In one of the cases, one  Okosisi Ngwu is asking High Court of the Federal Capital Territory to sack Buni-led CECPC and nullify all actions it has so far taken, including the recent ward congresses.

Aside Buni, he joined all members of CECPC which includes Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola; Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani-Bello; former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani; Stella Okorete; Dr. James Lalu, Senator Abubakar Yusuf; Akinyemi Olaide; David Leon; Abba Ali; Prof. Tahir Mamman; Ismail Ahmed and Senator John Akpanudoedehe in the suit.

Also, a Kwara State chieftain APC, Bashir Bolarinwa, is asking the High Court of the FCT to declare the Buni-led CECPC illegal.

In his application filed on August 16, 2021, Bolarinwa urged the court to determine whether the appointment of the 2nd-and 14th defendants; chairman and members of CECPC; was not legal without ratification of the Board of Trustees of the 1st defendant, having regards to Article 18 (II) of the APC Constitution.

Also, reports on Friday indicated that about 100 APC members in Benue State have dragged their party and the Buni led CECPC to court.

In the motion for  interlocutory injunction filed by their lawyer, Mr Samuel Irabor at the Federal High Court, Abuja on August 18, 2021, the APC members argued that the Caretaker Committee which constituted of 13 members was below the required membership of 24 persons spread across not less than two-third of all the states and the Federal Capital Territory for any governing body of a political party, whether substantive or acting, as stipulated under Section 223 (2) (b) of the constitution.

They also argued that Buni, a serving governor cannot hold dual executive offices according to the provisions of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 17(4) of the constitution.

The APC members argued  that only the National Working Committee of the party could constitute a Caretaker Committee as provided under Article 13(4)(xvi) of the APC Constitution.

The main opposition PDP is also asking the court to sack Buni CECP in the suit filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The opposition party argued that Buni violated the Nigerian and APC constitution by holding the office of a governor with party’s executive position simultaneously.

The party urged the court to declared the office of Yobe State governor’s office and that of the deputy governor, Idi Gubana, vacant over the alleged infraction.

Also, the NNPP is asking Federal High Court Abuja to disqualify the ruling party from contesting the in the Abuja Municipal Council slated for February 12, 2022.

NNPP said it is asking for the exclusion because the Buni led CECPC has no legal backing to administer the affairs of the party.

A Judgment And Its Controversies

The lawsuits will give the courts the opportunity of making pronouncements on the controversies which have trailed the 4:3 judgment of the apex court which upheld the election of Akeredolu as Ondo governor.

The PDP candidate in the governorship election had asked the apex court to nullify the victory of  Akeredolu in the Ondo October 2020 governorship election because Buni who signed his nomination form submitted to INEC cannot hold the office of Yobe State Governor and preside over the affairs of the APC at the same time, according to the party’s and the APC constitution.

But the apex court, in the slim majority judgment dismissed the suit because the PDP governorship candidate did not join Governor Buni in the suit.

However, some members of the party had raised alarm that the courts may consequently quashed actions of the Buni Committee if the Yobe Governor is joined in any subsequent suit.

For instance, Festus Keyamo, minister of state for labour and employment, said with the judgment, the apex court had called into question the competence of Yobe Governor to conduct congresses and nominate candidates and as such, APC should immediately suspend the congresses and replace Buni.

However, Tahir Mamman, senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and chieftain of APC argued that the Supreme court judgment affirmed the legality of the caretaker committee contrary.

In an explanatory note and excerpts of judgment made available to journalists about two weeks ago,  Mamman, a member of the caretaker committee, argued that  Buni’s CECPC  is “firm on the ground” to carry out the assignment given to it by the party’s national executive committee (NEC).

“On the validity of Mai Mala Buni acting as a sitting Governor in the position of Chairman, Caretaker, Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC vis a vis the provisions of Section 183 of the CFRN and Articles, 13.3(vi) and 17(iv) of the Constitution of the APC 2014(as amended) and the effect on the APC or the qualification of its candidates; the Supreme Court relied copiously on the Judgment of the Court of Appeal and agreed with same in resolving this issue (see pages 31 to 36 of the lead judgment),” he said.

“Indeed the Court of Appeal had found that the functions performed by Mai Mala Buni were those of the National Chairman of the APC but that they were performed on a temporary basis.

“The Court however held that questions regarding the validity or otherwise of the actions of Mai Mala Buni in that acting and temporary office cannot be questioned in the absence of Mai Mala who is a necessary party, without whose presence the issues could not be competently and validly litigated.

“The Court of Appeal went further to hold that such issues can only be litigated in a proper civil suit and not in an election petition where the jurisdiction of the tribunal is narrow and limited to questions as to whether a person has been validly elected to a public office.

“In conclusion and by way of summary, it is respectfully submitted as follows; that Mai Mala Buni’s position as Acting Chairman of the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee is not contrary to the provision of Section 183 of the CFRN as same is on a temporary basis which is not akin to Executive office or paid employment as envisaged by Section 183 of the CFRN.

“That the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party is empowered to create, elect and appoint Committees (including the instant CECPC) or any other committee it may deem necessary to act in any capacity.

“On the strength of all the above position of the Supreme Court in the instant case and other earlier decided cases cited in support, it is our opinion that the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) headed by Governor Mai Mala Buni is on firm ground to proceed with its mandate as given by the National Executive Committee of the APC.”

Mamman therefore concluded that the dissenting verdict “is not the judgment of the court and therefore is not binding”.

But will Buni survive the lawsuits? This is what the courts will decide in the coming days.