State APC’s crisis deepens as court halts congresses
Imo Deputy Gov, Madumere Impeached
Alex Enumah in Abuja and Amby Uneze in Owerri
The Imo State House of Assembly has finally impeached the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, for alleged “misconduct and constitutional breach.”
However, the action of the state’s lawmakers was in disobedience of an order of the Imo State High Court, which had yesterday restrained parties in the suit instituted by Madumere, including the Chief Judge of the state, the states lawmakers and the seven-man panel constituted by the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Paschal Nnadi, from further action on the matter until the determination of the substantive case by the state high court presided over by Justice Benjamin Iheka.
This is coming as the crisis that hit the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) deepened yesterday as the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) as well as the APC and its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomholes, not to conduct any congress in the state until August 21.
Justice Babatunde Quadri, who gave the order in a short ruling, on an application brought by Senator Osita Izunaso and four others, also ordered all parties in the suit to maintain status quo until the next adjourned date.
Meanwhile,THISDAY correspondent who was at the Imo State House of Assembly complex to cover the day’s proceedings, noted that all journalists were barred from entry except those from state government-owned media organisations.
It was gathered that while the impeachment was ongoing, the State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, immediately forwarded the name of the Head of Service, Mr. Callistus Ekenze, who hails from the same Mbaitoli Local Government Area (LGA)with Madumere for confirmation as the new deputy governor, a request which the assembly members obliged him.
Our correspondent could not confirm whether the required 18 number of lawmakers were present to carry out the impeachment.
In a related development, Justice Babatunde Quadri gave the order stopping fresh congresses in APC in the state in a short ruling following an application brought by Senator Osita Izunaso and four others.
The judge also ordered all parties in the suit to maintain status quo until the next adjourned date.
Plaintiffs in the suit are Izunaso, Sen. Ben Uwajimogu, Mr. Mathew Omegara, Mr. Hilary Ekeh and Mr. Patrick Uzoukwu.
In arguing the application of the plaintiffs, Ahmed Raji (SAN) had urged the court to restrain all parties in the suit from conducting any primaries in the state, ward or local government until the next adjourned date of the suit.
He said if such and order was not made and the defendants went ahead to conduct the primaries before the next adjourned date, the suit would become an academic exercise.
Raji told the court that although the defendants were duly served with an order of court stopping them from conducting congresses on July 20, they went ahead to conduct the congresses.
This action, according to him, led the plaintiffs to file a motion ex parte on July 23, asking the court to set aside the purported congresses.
The plaintiffs, in addition, asked the court for an order of injunction restraining APC and its chairman from recognising and swearing in those purportedly elected at the said congresses.
The senior lawyer, however, noted that the court in its wisdom refused to grant the prayers and rather ordered the plaintiffs to put the defendants on notice, “and we did and duly served all processes on them but there has been no response from them,’’ he said.
Responding, counsel to the defendants, Mr. Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN), told the court that he had just been briefed about the matter.
Okpeseyi alluded to the fact that his clients had been unable to file the proper responses owing to the “political maneuvering” they had recently been faced with including the mass defection from the party.
“The executive members of the party have not been around so the best we could do is to file a memorandum of conditional appearance.
“We want to crave the indulgence of the court to give us more time within which to file our processes”, he prayed the court,” he said.
Reacting, counsel to the plaintiffs disagreed with Okpeseyi’s reason for his inability to file his processes saying such reasons were not permissible in law.
Raji, in urging the court to reject the oral application, added that the alleged defection the defendants alluded to, occurred after they were served with the processes.
However in a short ruling, Justice Quadri, ordered all parties in the suit to maintain status quo and not conduct any primaries until the next adjourned date.
‘’All parties are restrained from conducting any primaries in the state, ward or local government until Aug. 21.’’
He awarded a cost of N10,000 against the defendants for not filing their processes within the stipulated time and adjourned the matter until Aug. 21 to allow the defendants regularize their processes.
In the originating summons, the plaintiffs have formulated four questions for the court to determine.
One of which is that having regard to an appeal pending before the Court of Appeal in Owerri, whether INEC has the power to monitor the state, ward and local government congresses of the APC of July 20.
“Whether the APC and its chairman have the powers to lawfully schedule or conduct the state, ward and local government primaries in the state without 21 days’ notice given to INEC in line with mandatory provisions of Section 85 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010.’’
Consequently, the plaintiffs are asking for the following reliefs;“ A declaration that having regard to the appeal pending before the Court of Appeal in Owerri, INEC has no power to monitor state, ward and local government congresses of the APC of July 20.
“A declaration that the state, ward and local government congresses of the APC purportedly scheduled to hold in Imo on July 20 is illegal, unlawful, null and void and a gross abuse of court process.
“An order of injunction restraining INEC from monitoring state, ward and local government congresses of the APC purportedly scheduled to hold in Imo on July 20.
“An order nullifying or setting aside the state, ward and local government congresses of the APC scheduled to hold or which held in Imo on July 20.