President Muhammadu Buhari has cautioned the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole and the party’s national working committee (NWC) against taking punitive action against any member of the party who feels aggrieved and takes the matter to court.
The president was reacting to the threat by the Oshiomhole-led NWC to punish APC members across the country who had taken the party to court over various issues.
The NWC had, in a statement recently said: “The party intends to activate constitutional provisions to penalise such members as their action is capable of undermining the party and hurt the party’s interest.
“We hereby strongly advise such members to withdraw all court cases, while approaching the appropriate party organs with a view to resolving any outstanding disputes. In addition to this, aggrieved members are urged to take full advantage of the reconciliation committees the party has put in place. APC members should understand that as a progressive party that operates on the principle of change, it is not a matter of choice to keep to the rules.”
The party stated that Article 20, sub-section 10 of APC’s constitution stipulates offences against the party to include: Filing an action in a court of law against the party or any of its officers on any matter relating to the discharge of the duties of the party without first exhausting all avenues for redress provided for in this constitution.
However, Buhari who spoke through his media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, countered Oshiomhole and his NWC saying aggrieved persons should not be denied the right to seek redress in court.
“If anyone is displeased with the way and manner anything has been done and feels deprived of his/her rights, then such a person is at liberty to approach the courts for redress.
“We can’t deliberately deny people of their rights. We agreed that party primaries should be conducted either through direct, indirect or consensus methods and if anyone feels unjustly treated in the process, such a person can go to court.
The court should always be the last resort for the dissatisfied. For the party to outlaw the court process is not acceptable to me,” he said.
Nevertheless, the president advised members to work with APC’s reconciliation committees in the six geopolitical zones and not a purported presidential committee on reconciliation.
He stressed that the party is the only body authorised to constitute such committees.
Meanwhile, the director general of the Voice of Nigeria (VON) Mr. Osita Okechukwu applauded the president saying he was surprised by the party’s attitude to legal redress.
Okechukwu, who is pained at the controversial manner he lost out in his quest to pick a senatorial ticket in Enugu State, said the stance proves the president’s transparency on issues.
He said described the party’s stand as “antithetical to the APC’s constitution, the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution as amended.”
He accused Oshiomhole of compromising the ideals of the party on internal democracy, claiming that aggrieved members went to court because they lost faith in the Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor-led appeal panel.
Similarly, APC governorship aspirant in Delta State, Prof. Pat Utomi, lauded the president saying the court remains the final arbiter in civil disputes.
Utomi said he was not disposed to withdrawing his suit and wondered why Oshiomhole should have adopted the “undemocratic” position in the first instance when he (Oshiomhole) was emerged as governor of Edo State following a court judgment.
Some other members who have taken the party to court include Chief Uche Nwosu, Imo State governorship aspirant; Senator Hope Uzodinma, Imo State governorship candidate; Minister of Niger Delta, Mr. Usani Usani; Minister of Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu; Senator Kabiru Marafa from Zamfara; Chief Emhor O’tega of Delta State chapter; some party members in Edo and Ondo states.