Confusion over the leadership of Labour Party (LP) continued, yesterday, as the Court of Appeal in Owerri, Imo State, removed Julius Abure as national chairman.
The court, consequently, recognised Lamidi Apapa as national chairman and the one Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should deal with, in terms of candidates of the party for the coming Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections.
The court also ordered INEC to immediately recognise and publish the names of candidates produced by the Apapa-led National Working Committee in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi states for the governorship elections.[news_related_post]
The court further annulled the candidature of Senator Athan Achonu for the governorship of Imo State and others produced for other states by the Abure-led faction.
In April, Apapa had said his suspension as a member of the party was invalid and that he remained the ‘legitimate acting chairman.’
The ruling followed judgment of the Court of Appeal in Benin City on April 14, which affirmed Abure as national chairman.
In the case of Mr. Lucky Shaibu v. Julius Abure & 5 ORS (Appeal No: CA/B/93/2023), Justices Theresa Ngolika Orji Abadua, Fatima Omoro Akinbami, and Sybil O. Nwaka-Gbagi, in a unanimous decision, dismissed the appeal of the appellant.
Shaibu, who claimed to be a member of LP in the Ward 3 executive, in Esan North East local council of Edo State, had suspended the LP chairman.
In her lead judgment, Justice Abadua affirmed the decision of the High Court of Edo State and held that one man could not suspend the national chairman, in line with Article 13 and 17 of the constitution of the party and extant Electoral Act of 2022, particularly when the appellant has been described by the party as unknown.
Also, the state High Court in Edo had dismissed the notice of suspension of Abure by some LP members at his ward in Edo State.
Reacting, the Lamidi Apapa faction maintained that the ruling on the Imo governorship primaries has invalidated all off-season governorship primary elections conducted by the Abure faction.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, Apapa insisted that the Federal High Court order restraining Abure from parading himself as LP chairman is yet to be vacated.
He said the Court of Appeal judgment in Benin City, which affirmed Abure as national chairman, was a civil matter.
Apapa said: “The Edo state issue, more or less, has to do with civil matters. The excos in Edo suspended him and they went to court because of that, and they don’t have the right to suspend him. I’m talking about ward level.
“But the FCT restraining order has to do with criminal matters. It is between the state and Abure, and nobody is above the law. That’s the difference between the civil matter and a criminal matter.
“The order of FCT has not been vacated, and that is why on the basis of that, the Appeal court reaffirmed that by the time he conducted his primary, a restraining order was in place. And up till today, the order is still in force. That’s the difference between the two.”
Apapa said he was ready for reconciliation, adding that the presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 election, Peter Obi, acted against the judgment of the court during the party’s mega rally in Edo, held earlier this week
He said: “From the look of things, you will also agree with me that the day before yesterday, our principal and Abure went to Owerri, despite the court order against them, that Ikenga was the right person for Imo State.
“He went ahead and raised somebody’s hands; somebody that had been asked not to go ahead by the judgment of Imo State. Today, it has also been reaffirmed by the Appeal Court. I don’t know what he will do again, whether he will reaffirm that again.
“What I want everybody to know is that nobody is above the law. Anybody who is above the law should not be in politics because it’s a creation of law, and where you are disobeying the law that provides you the authority, then you are not supposed to lead the people. So, like I said, we are ready for reconciliation but not at our expense.”