The filing of a suit, yesterday, in Abuja, by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeking the sack of Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni and his deputy, Idi Gubana, could mean more trouble for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as momentum gathers ahead of the 2023 general election.

The party’s woes took a worrisome dimension in July, when a minority judgement of the Supreme Court held that Buni violated the 1999 Constitution by performing the duties of a sitting Governor and Chairman of the APC Caretaker Committee – both executive positions.

The judgement has since July 28 continued to tear the party further apart alongside pro-Buni and anti-Buni tendencies, with the Minister of State for Niger Delta and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Festus Keyamo, warning about future disasters if Buni was not immediately removed as chairman of APC.

Keyamo and others, like Senators Babafemi Ojudu and Ita Enang, had raised concerns about future elections, particularly, in a situation, where the convention to elect new leaders of the APC was conducted under the Yobe State governor.

Although the pro-Buni group within the party has continued to maintain that the Supreme Court judgement did not fault the chairman’s position as governor and, hence, passed a vote of confidence on his committee to proceed with its planned congresses and national convention.

While the crisis rocking the party had been mainly internal, a new dimension was introduced yesterday with the filing of a suit by the PDP leadership, this time seeking the removal of Buni as governor of Yobe State, over alleged breach of constitutional provisions barring a sitting governor from holding two executive offices at the same time.

Apart from Buni, PDP, citing section 187(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, also sought the removal of Gubana from office as deputy governor.
PDP, in the suit dated and filed August 12, specifically alleged that Buni violated Section 183 of the constitution, when as a governor he accepted to serve as Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of APC had last year appointed Buni and others to manage the affairs of the party for a period of six months, which has been extended twice. Buni’s appointment was sequel to the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of APC. This was after Oshiomhole was suspended from his ward in the build-up to the Edo 2020 governorship poll.

Both the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal had held that Oshiomhole, having been suspended by his ward, could not continue to preside over the activities of APC.
Although Oshiomhole did not challenge the dissolution of the NWC then, some aggrieved party members had approached the court seeking to stop the Buni-led caretaker committee.

While the party would be battling on the one hand to legitimise the Buni-led committee, the Yobe State governor, on the other hand, would be battling to save his office as governor.
Outside Buni and Gubana, other defendants in the suit filed by Umar Damagum and Baba Aji included the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In the suit filed on their behalf by their lawyer, Chief Emeka Etiaba, SAN, the plaintiffs insisted that Buni ceased to be a governor from the moment he accepted to act as APC caretaker committee chairman.

Among the issues raised for determination by the court were, “Whether the 1st Defendant did not breach the clear provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Regublic of Nigeria 1999 as amended) when as the governor of Yobe State he accepted the 3rd Defendant’s appointment as its Caretaker Committee Chairman and proceeded to occupy the office?

“Whether the 1st Defendant, who is the governor of Yobe State and the Caretaker Committee Charmin of the 3rd Defendant, has not ceased to hold the office of the govermor of Yobe State, having regards to the provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)?

“Having regard to the judgment of the Supreme Court Eyitayo Olayinka Jegede and Anor And Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Appeal No: SC 448/2021 delivered on July 28, 2021 whether the 1st Defendant, who is the governor of Yobe State and the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the 3rd Defendant has not ceased to hold the office of the governor of Yobe ‘State?

“Having regard to the clear provisions of Section 187 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeran 1999 (a amended) and the state of the law whether the 2nd Defendant can lawfully occupy the office of the governor or deputy governor of ‘Yobe State upon the cessation of the 1st Defendant’s occupation of the Yobe State governor’s office.”

The plaintiffs submitted that if the questions were answered in the affirmative, the court should declare “that the 1st Defendant breached the clear provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) when as the governor of Yobe State, he accepted 3rd Defendant’s appointment as the Caretaker ‘Committee Chairman and proceeded to occupy the office
“A Declaration that the 1st Defendant, who is the governor of Yobe State and the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the 3rd Defendant has ceased to hold the office of the governor of Yobe State having regard to the clear provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended).

“A Declaration that having regard to the judgment of the Supreme Court on Eyitayo Olayinka Jegede and Anor And Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Appeal No SC 449/2021 delivered on the 28 day of July 2021, the 1st Defendant, who is the governor of Yobe State and the Caretaker ‘Committee Chairman of the 3rd Defendant has ceased to hold the office of the governor of Yobe State
“A Declaration that the actions of the Ist Defendant as the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the 3rd Defendant while he remains the governor of Yobe State are wrongful null and void,

“A Declaration that having regard to the clear provisions of Section 187 {1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the state of law, the 2nd Defendant cannot lawfully occupy the office of the governor or deputy governor of Yobe State upon cessation af the 1st Defendant’s occupation of the office of the governor of Yobe State

“An Order directing the Chief Judge of Yobe State or any other relevant judge in his absence to immediately swear in the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs as governor and Deputy governor of Yobe State, the offices having become vacant.”
No date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.

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