PDP asks court to remove Yobe governor Buni from his APC leadership

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has asked a court to dismiss Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni for accepting another executive position as the All Progressives Congress’ caretaker chairman (APC).

The PDP claims that merging the governorship with another executive position is a constitutional infringement in a petition filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday.

The governorship of Yobe State and that of the deputy governor, Idi Gubana, have thus become vacant since Mr Buni took up the APC appointment, according to the PDP.

The opposition party requested that Umar Damagum, its governorship candidate in the 2019 election, and his running mate, Baba Aji, be sworn in as Mr Buni’s and his deputy’s replacements.

On Thursday, Channels Television shared copies of some pages of the FHC/ABJ/CS/885/2021 lawsuit on its website.

The PDP, along with Messrs Damagum and Aji, are listed as the plaintiffs who jointly filed the lawsuit.

The action named Mr Buni, the Yobe State deputy governor, Mr Gubana, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as respondents.

Following the crisis that saw the party’s former leader, Adams Oshiomhole, resign, the governor was named chairman of the APC’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) in June 2020.

Plaintiffs cling to a Supreme Court decision.
The plaintiffs asked the trial court to establish if Mr Buni, “who is the governor of Yobe State and caretaker committee chairman” of the APC, “has not ceased to hold the office of governor of Yobe State,” citing section 183 of the Nigerian constitution and a recent Supreme Court decision.

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The plaintiffs reference the Supreme Court’s decision on an appeal relating the previous governorship election in Ondo State, which was handed down on July 28, 2021.

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Eyitayo Jegede, the PDP’s governorship candidate in Ondo State, had filed an appeal to overturn Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s victory in the October 2020 election.

Mr Jegede based his case on the claim that Mr Akeredolu was not a legitimate governorship candidate in the election because his nomination was overseen by Mr Buni, who is accused of illegally serving as both the APC chairman and the Governor of Yobe State.

He requested that Mr Akeredolu’s nomination be revoked because it violated section 183 of the constitution and article 17(4) of the APC constitution, both of which, he claims, prevent such executive positions being held concurrently.

Mr Akeredolu, the case’s opponent, won the legal battle by a hair’s breadth, with a 4-to-3 Supreme Court panel declaring in his favor on technical grounds.

Mr Jegede’s lawsuit was dismissed by a majority ruling in favor of Mr Akeredolu, who said it was incompetent because he failed to join Mr Buni, who was accused of serious wrongdoing, as a party to the case.

However, the minority ruling backed Mr Jedgede’s reasoning and declared Mr Akeredolu’s election null and void, saying that Mr Buni violated the constitution by acting as chairman of the APC and submitting Mr Akeredolu’s name to INEC for the governorship election while he was still governor.

In contrast to the majority opinion, it also found that Mr Buni’s non-joinder did not render the case incompetent.

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Mr Buni, who was only serving as the APC’s representative, did not need to be joined because the APC had already been joined, according to the minority judgment.

Some legal voices inside the APC, notably the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, warned that if Mr Buni was not replaced as the party’s leader immediately, the party’s survival would be questionable.

The PDP, however, seized on the ruling, claiming that Mr Buni is unfit to remain as governor of Yobe State after accepting and assuming the APC chairmanship.

The PDP claims that the Yobe State deputy governor could not lawfully stay in office “upon the termination of the 1st defendant’s (Mr Buni’s) occupation of the Yobe State governor’s office,” citing section 187(2) of the Nigerian constitution.

On matters such as qualification for election, tenure of office, and disqualifications, the constitution’s section 187(2) recognizes the nomination of gubernatorial and deputy governorship candidates as one indivisible entity.

Prayers.

The plaintiffs, through their legal team led by Emeka Etiaba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, asked the court to declare that Mr Buni’s actions in accepting the position of caretaker committee chairman of the APC “while he remains the governor of Yobe State is wrongful, null and void,” among other things.

Sanwo-Olu imposed a contentious revenue collector.
They also want an order “directing the Chief Judge of Yobe State, or any other relevant judge in his absence, to promptly swear in the 2nd and 3rd plaintiffs as governor and deputy governor, respectively, because the offices have become vacant.”

APC responds.

Meanwhile, the APC responded to the lawsuit on Thursday, calling it “misplaced and frivolous legal action.”

“The PDP leadership is definitely performing a desperate and poorly-scripted propaganda operation aimed at distracting attention from the crisis of confidence the failing opposition party faces,” the party claimed in a statement signed by John Akpanudoedehe, national secretary of its caretaker committee.

“The PDP are obnoxious rabble-rousers who have no authority to intervene in the APC’s internal issues.

“The CECPC’s status and constitutionality have already been upheld by the Supreme Court, and that is all there is to it,” the APC stated.

It went on to say that the PDP lacked locus standi (legal standing) to suit over its internal affairs, pleading with the court to take “punitive measures” against the PDP for such “abuse of judicial processes.”

The party went on to say, “We are convinced that the judiciary will completely implement these measures.”

The APC and the other defendants who were sued will still have to defend themselves in court.

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