From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

The All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), has handed fresh warnings to all its members with pending court cases to urgently withdraw them and explore party’s internal mechanism resolution option.

APC, equally urged the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to leave the ruling party alone and concentrate on solving its internal crisis.

Briefing newsmen on the controversial legal status of the Caretaker Committee in the face of the recent Supreme Court judgment, member of the Committee, Prof Tahir Mamman, said that CECPC avoided making statements/pronouncements on the controversy regarding its legality and that of its Chairman.

The party maintained that following the resolution of the doubts surrounding the judgment, party members should concentrate on the upcoming Congresses, ensure unity and harmony in the party.

“Finally, in the light of these clarifications, we call on all APC members who have sued the party to withdraw their cases and use the mechanism of reconciliation to address their grievances.

“We also advise members to focus on our upcoming Congresses, ensure unity and harmony in the party. The dying PDP on its part should focus on the logs in its eyes and leave the APC alone,” the rulingparty quipped.

Explaining the legal status of CECPC, he said: “Until now the CECPC avoided making statements/pronouncements on the raging controversy with regards to its legality and that of its Chairman. It left the matter to be attended to by the leaders and senior stakeholders of the party.

“Another major reason was that until now, the full judgment of the Supreme Court was not available. There is always potential danger in commenting on an incomplete picture when relying on newspaper reports of a case.

This precaution is now confirmed upon due reading of the full judgment.

“The two issues are: “If the CECPC is legal and if position of the Chairman of CECPC, Governor Mai Mala Buni in holding dual office as Governor and Chairman is legal.

“On both issues, we will state the position and decision of the Supreme Court only. The decision here is the majority judgment of the Supreme Court which is now the Law.

“The decision and judgment was read and concurred to by the Justices who were in the majority. Any other statements in their various additional contributions by the Justices complement the lead judgment.

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“It is therefore right to say that the issues and ratio in the lead judgment reflect the views of the majority. The minority judgment, although important as it is, is not the judgment of the court.

“The Nigerian Supreme Court in its judgment affirmed the legality of the Caretaker Committee. The court stated that the NEC under Art. 13 (3) IV of the APC constitution has power to create, elect and appoint a committee and endow it with powers and functions.

“It drew a parallel with Art 33(3) of PDP constitution (2012) with similar powers granted to its National Convention which in turn appointed a National Caretaker in 2016, which the Supreme Court ruled legal in Sheriff VS PDP.

“On the status of the Acting National Chairman, Mai Mala Buni, the Supreme Court held that he was appointed only in acting capacity, on temporary basis to carry out and fill in the seat of the National Chairman, pending the election of new officers.

“The apex court also held that Mai Mala Buni’s position as Acting Chairman of the Caretaker Committee is not contrary to the provision of Section 183 of the CFRN because the appointment, ad-hoc, is on a temporary basis which is not akin to Executive office or paid employment as envisaged by Section 183 of the CFRN.

“In any case, the Court ruled, the second respondent, a registered political party being a voluntary organization, the question of who should hold offices in it, whether it can appoint its members to hold office in acting capacity or authorize a member to exercise the powers of an office and whether it has violated its own constitution by appointing a member to hold a particular office in it or discharge the functions of that office, cannot be entertained by any court.

“Those questions deal with the internal administration of the affairs of the political party. Those are non justifiable questions. Courts have no jurisdiction over the internal affairs of a political party except where a statute expressly gives a court jurisdiction to deal with any internal affair of a political party.

“Furthermore, upon consideration of the full judgment of the Supreme Court, the apex court held that “the law is and still remain that the provisions that govern sponsorship and nomination of candidates in an election are: Sections 31 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.

“That there are no provisions in the Electoral Act prescribing any form for forwarding or submission of the sponsored candidate of a political party in an election.

“Sections 177 and 182 of the CFRN which make provisions for qualifications and disqualification of candidates for Governorship election are exhaustive and leave no room for any addition.

“That no other Law/Act can be relied upon to disqualify a candidate in an election save for the provisions of Section 182 of the CFRN.

“That non-compliance with INEC directives (regulations, guidelines or manuals) for the purpose of election but which is not contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act shall not of itself be a ground in an election petition.

“Paragraph 17 (a) of the First Supplementary to Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections cannot be relied upon as ground to question the return of a candidate in an election,” CECPC insisted.