On Monday, 22 October 2018, the Supreme Court set aside a Stay of Execution Order granted by the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State.
Some aggrieved members of the APC had approached the Supreme Court to appeal against the Appeal Court’s order against an interlocutory injunction granted by a Rivers State High Court against the conduct of Ward, Local Government and State congresses.
The verdict of the apex court brought mixed feelings to the already factionalised leading opposition political party in Rivers State and even within the ranks of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Supporters of one of the governorship aspirants of the APC and senator representing Rivers South-East senatorial district, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, besieged Freedom House, his campaign office in Port Harcourt, celebrating the Supreme Court judgement.
To members and supporters of the PDP, the verdict of the apex court translates to the fact that the APC will not field candidates in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
First to react to the Supreme Court judgement was the chairman of the APC in the state, Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, who debunked rumours that the apex court sacked the State Working Committee (SWC) of the party led by him.
Flag-Amachree, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, said the Supreme Court judgement had nothing to do with his executives, affirming that the executive under his leadership was not dissolved by the judgement but remained intact.
He said: “What the Supreme Court did was to set aside the stay of execution by the Appeal Court and ask them to hear the substantive matter on an interlocutory injunction given by Justice Nworgu which had also been overtaken by Justice Nwogu’s judgement.
“Like I have said before I have a perpetual injunction by Justice A. O. Musa from Federal High Court Abuja which has not been set aside by any court of higher jurisdiction. So what the Supreme Court did has nothing to do with the nullification of my executives.
“People should not be peddling rumours. I enjoin party members to remain calm and go about their party activities.”
In a follow-up statement, the Publicity Secretary of APC in the state, Senibo Chris Finebone, debunked reports on social media that Supreme Court nullified the ward, local government and state congresses as well as primaries organised by the party in the state.
Finebone stated the Supreme Court only set aside the Stay of Execution order of the Court of Appeal over the ruling of a Rivers State High Court in a suit against the party by Ibrahim Umar and 22 others.
The statement reads in part: “The Rivers State Chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), would like to state, for the avoidance of doubt, that the appeal filed at the Supreme Court by Ibrahim Umar & 22 others of which the ruling was given today, 3 issues were canvassed before the Supreme Court one of which was that the Appeal Court did not act correctly by granting a stay of execution on the interlocutory orders of the State High Court.
“The Supreme Court agreed with them. However, the Supreme Court did not make pronouncements on the other issues since the State High Court had already given final judgment on them, an action that has left the present development a mere academic exercise.
The Supreme Court only granted the appeal in parts and did not make any consequential orders as that can only be subject matter at the Appeal Court when the appeal hearing of the State High Court judgment commences.
“According to Counsel to APC, The Supreme Court today allowed the appellant appeal which was against the stay of Order of Injunction of 11/05/2018.The court said the said order should not have been stayed.
“The Supreme Court made no orders except to set aside the Court of Appeal order. That clears the way for hearing of the main appeal at Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt against the judgment of the High Court. Their prayer that Supreme Court should hear the pending appeal at Court of Appeal was rejected .The appeal is to be heard and determined by Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt.
“It is important for APC faithful to ignore the raging propaganda by detractors that the Supreme Court set aside congresses and primaries of the party in Rivers state. That is a big lie from the pit of hell.
“As things stand, all pending appeals at the Appeal Court are proceeding apace with some ongoing today. Furthermore, appeal and stay of the final judgment of the state High Court given on the 10th of October are being perfected and hearing will commence thereafter.
“We call on all APC members to remain steadfast and refuse to be distracted as ultimate victory is assured. Those claiming victory and dancing in the streets are doing so either out of ignorance or out to deceive others.”
However, in his own reaction, Abe, widely believed to be the promoter of the Prince Peter Odike-led faction of the APC, hailed the judgment of the Supreme Court, saying the judgement nullified the congresses of the party held on May 19, 20 and 21, 2018.
Addressing journalists at Freedom House, his campaign headquarters, the senator, who is also the governorship candidate of the Odike-led faction, condemned allowing the APC congresses to go on against a subsisting court order.
He said: “I am sure that you have all heard of the historic decision of the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which affirmed the position of the High Court of Rivers State that the action of the party excluding members of this party from the process and depriving them of the constitutional right was wrong.
“And to do so in the face of a clear order of a court of competent jurisdiction is nothing but senselessness.
“And so for anybody to continue to parade themselves either as a candidate of the APC arising from a process that has clearly been voided by the Court is nothing but political rascality of the highest order.
“And I think it is time for right thinking members and leaders of this party to put this whole thing to an end and put the party in a frame to begin our hard-work towards the realization of our dream of taking over Rivers State.
“Luckily the party conducted proper primaries here in Rivers State in the form of the direct primaries. And I believe that the proper thing to do is to do the right thing since the other primary was done in clear violation of an existing order of a court of competent jurisdiction.”
To the chairman of PDP in the state, Chief Felix Obuah, there was the need to reconcile the Minister of Transportation and leader of APC in the state, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Abe.
Obuah, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, said he had already sent out invitation to the duo for possible resolution of the crisis, which according to him is deepening by the day.
The PDP chairman expressed confidence that the Amaechi and Abe would honour his invitation, adding that they are both familiar with his residence in Port Harcourt, venue of the meeting.
Obuah said: “There is no problem that does not have a solution. Once the right approach is adopted, the crisis would be over, and that is the prescription I am going to give to the warring parties.”
He stated that it would be not be cultural for an elder statesman like him to sit back and watch the state plunged into crisis because of the activities of Amaechi and Abe.
The PDP chairman said: “A mother hen does not fold its hands and watch its chicks carried away by the hawk. We may belong to different political associations, but I am wading into the crisis as an elder statesman, to ensure peaceful resolution so there will be peace in the state.”
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