Some lawyers in the country have faulted a fresh suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the legality of Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, as the chairman of the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The legal experts who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend exclusively yesterday described the suit by the opposition party as baseless and a waste of time.
The PDP had instituted the suit at a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking for an order sacking Governor Buni and his deputy, Idi Barde Gubana.
The PDP is praying the court to order that Buni and Gubana be replaced with its candidates in the last governorship election in Yobe State, Ambassador Umar Iliya, and his running mate.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/885/2021 field by its lawyer, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), PDP relied on the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the dispute over the governorship election in Ondo State to contend that Buni violated Section 183 of the constitution when, being a sitting governor, he accepted to serve as the chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
But reacting to the development, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Abdul Balogun, described the PDP’s case as a waste of the precious time of the court.
He disagreed with the PDP on the fresh suit saying that the leadership crisis in the APC is an internal one.
According to him, PDP cannot interfere because it has no locus to do so.
“The leadership crisis in the APC shouldn’t be PDP’s problem. It should be APC’s internal problem, which should be sorted out among them. Politically, it is even a dumb strategy in the first place to have filed the case. PDP is only out to truncate Buni’s reign as governor to pave way for its candidate. If there is a crack in the APC organizational structure, why don’t they wait for the right time to exploit it?” He queried.
Also, an Abuja-based constitutional lawyer, Soul David Kalat, said the matter is none of PDP’s business, just as he wondered why the opposition party was drinking panadol tablet on another person’s headache.
Kalat said, “That is none of PDP’s business. How would you take Panadol tablet for another person’s headache? It is purely a party affair, and in this case, APC’s affair. The PDP or any member of the opposition party can only approach the court when the rest of the case is an action committed by the APC caretaker committee chairman which affects the PDP or any of its members.
“The issue at stake borders on APC constitution which is binding on only members of APC. So, the PDP or any of its members does not have the locus standi to institute a suit against Buni on the issue they are asking the court to adjudicate on. Even in APC, there are limitations because Buni is only chairing an interim caretaker committee pending when the party will hold its national convention where it will elect a national chairman.
“It is only when Governor Buni goes ahead to sign documents or carry out assignments meant for the office of a substantive chairman that a member of the APC can challenge his actions in court.”
Also, a Professor of Law at the Lagos State University, Gbenga Ojo, said members of APC affected by the decision of the party should be the ones to go to court and not the PDP.
According to him, the issue of the legal rights of the PDP to challenge the action of another political party will first be decided before going into the merit of the case.
The law professor said, ‘’This is good for the jurisprudence and the constitutionality of this country. Let all grievances be vented in the court.
‘’When a matter is filed in the court, the first issue the court must resolve is the issue of locus standi of the claimant. This is to prevent professional litigants from turning the court to a playing ground.
‘’How does the breach of APC Constitution concern PDP as a live issue. It was a live issue on Jegede v Akeredolu. I do not think that it is a live issue in the present case.
‘’The Supreme Court does not give advisory opinions or academic opinions because it is not an academic institution. Let persons affected by that in the APC seek the interpretation of the law and not the “busy body” which PDP is in this case.
‘’Of course, there are bound to be contrary opinions. That is the beauty until the Supreme Court determines the case. For me PDP has no locus standi. There is no dispute with APC. They want the Supreme Court to give advisory judgment for which the court lacks competence.’’
On his part, a rights activist, Ibeneme Chuks, said the issue under review has to do with technicalities in law, adding that Buni cannot be sued in view of the immunity he enjoys as a sitting governor under section 308.
He maintained that the action of Governor Buni and his party breached the provisions of the law which the Supreme Court also acknowledged.
According to him, anybody is clothed with locus to challenge such in court.
Also, an Abuja based lawyer, Adam Ebo, said, “If we look at the issue from a legal standpoint, not allowing a layman’s opinion to count, Buni and his party erred. A good lawyer will latch at technicalities therein and nail APC.’’
On his part, a senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ahamba, said the court should be allowed to decide the case one way or the other.
According to him, the opinion of the people cannot form the opinion of the court.
‘’The court should be allowed to decide the case one way or the other. The opinion of the people cannot form the opinion of the court’’, Ahamba said.
The PDP gubernatorial candidate in Yobe State, Ambassador Umaru Iliya Damagum, had debunked media reports that he asked a court to sack Governor Buni and swear him in his place.
In an interview he granted an online newspaper, Neptune Prime, Damagum said some disgruntled politicians, frustrated by the successful outcome of the recently concluded state congress of the PDP, mischievously used his name.
He said: “The idea is to divert my attention and that of my party from repositioning the PDP for future success and scuttle our case in a court of competent jurisdiction in Damaturu.”
He said, “Can you shave a man in his absence? I did not engage any lawyer to go to court on my behalf, no lawyer took any brief from me and I have signed no document regarding this purported case,” he said.
It’s An Abuse Of Court Process – APC
Meanwhile, APC yesterday said PDP’s legal action seeking the sack of chairman of its Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, is an abuse of court.
The APC while describing PDP as rabble-rousers suggested that legal punitive measures should be meted on the opposition party because it has no locus to take any action on the internal affairs of APC.
The national secretary of APC CECPC, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe, said the party is confident that the Judiciary will apply full punitive measures against PDP.
The PDP had asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to effect the removal of Goverparai Mala Buni as the governor of Yobe State.
Lawyer to the main opposition party, Emeka Etiaba, made the request in a four-page originating summons filed at the court on Thursday.
The party prayed the court to make the governor appear before it and defend whether or not he ceased to be governor by accepting to be the Caretaker Committee Chairman of APC.
But Akpanudoedehe in a statement yesterday said the Supreme Court has already affirmed the status and legality of the CECPC and that is all there is to it.
In a statement, the APC scribe said. “Our attention has been drawn to a purported court action sponsored by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni, Chairman of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and Governor of Yobe State.
“While we are constrained from and reluctant to comment on the PDP’s misplaced and frivolous court action because it will be subjudice, the PDP leadership is obviously executing a desperate and poorly-scripted propaganda plot aimed at deflecting attention from the crisis of confidence the failed opposition party faces.
“The PDP are ignominious rablerousers and have no locus to take any action on the internal affairs of the APC. The Supreme Court has already affirmed the status and legality of the CECPC and that is all there is to it.
“There are clearly spelt out punitive measures against abuse of court processes. We are confident that the Judiciary will apply these measures fully”.