INEC, APC on collision course over Buni
THE All Progressives Congress (APC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting slated for next Thursday has suffered a serious setback owing to a rebuff by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
A letter addressed to the Niger State governor and acting chairman of the CECPC, Abubakar Sani Bello, by the commission’s secretary, Rose Oriran Anthony, revealed that INEC has refused to accord recognition to Governor Bello as the chairman of the committee.
In the letter dated March 9, 2022, the commission maintained that Governor Buni and Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, being chairman and National Secretary, respectively, ought to have signed the notification for APC NEC meeting by virtue of the provision of Article 1.1.3 of the commission’s Regulations and Guidelines for Political Party Operations (2018).
The letter reads in part:” Please refer to your letter Ref. APC/NHDQ / INEC/019/022/32, dated 8th March 2022. “The commission draws your attention to the fact that the notice for the meeting was not signed by the National Chairman and National Secretary of the CECPC, contrary to the provision of Article 1.1.3 of the commission’s Regulations and Guidelines for Political Party Operations (2018).
“Furthermore, the APC is reminded of the provision in Section 82(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, which requires ‘at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress, conference, or meeting convened for the purpose of ‘merger’ and electing members of its executive committees, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any elective office.
“While hoping these issues are noted for compliance, please accept the assurance of the commission’s warm regards.”
A Saturday Tribune source revealed that the anti-Buni governors are already in a quandary on how to proceed with the NEC meeting and convention in the absence of formal letters of resignation as chairman and secretary by the duo of Buni and Akpanudoedehe.
The party source noted that by virtue of Article 14.1 of the APC Constitution 2014 (as amended), Governor Buni is the only one who can convene and preside over the NEC meeting. The section reads: “The National Chairman shall: (i) Be the Chief Executive, Accounting Officer and shall preside over the meetings of the National Executive Committee and National Working Committee of the Party.” The source argued that the removal of Governor Buni without recourse to the NEC was a clear breach of Article 13.3(v) which vests that statutory organ of the APC with the power to remove erring national officers.
He recalled that the immediate past national chairman of the party and former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, was removed by the NEC which, on June 2020, announced the creation of the CECPC.
The section reads in part: “The National Executive Committee of the Party shall be the Principal Executive body of the Party and shall perform the following functions:
“Exercise control and take disciplinary action on all organs , officers and members of the Party and determine appeals brought before it by any member or organ of the Party”.
The source disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari, who was privy to the NEC meeting that removed Oshiomhole, couldn’t have ordered the removal of Governor Buni by a mere verbal order.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has no power whatsoever to unilaterally sack Governor Buni as the caretaker chairman of the party. The president could not have done that because he is conversant with the law and the constitution of the party.
“For those who may not know, the only organ of the party that can remove Buni as the chairman of the party is the National Executive Committee, which is the highest decision-making organ of the party. And President Buhari is not the NEC of the party.
“If he no longer wants Buni as the chairman of the party for whatever reasons, the highest he can do, being the person with the highest commanding influence in the party because of the position he occupies, is to covertly lobby those in NEC to find a way to remove Buni.”
Those claiming Buhari removed me are name droppers –Buni
Further investigation revealed that having been informed that INEC was not willing to be a tool in the palace coup against the Yobe State governor, the camp of the Niger State governor are putting pressure on Governor Buni to make an official pronouncement that he has ceased to be the chairman of the party.
The Director of Press to Governor Buni, Mamman Mohammed, however, denied knowledge of pressure on his principal to throw in the towel as he maintained that President Buhari did not give such instruction that his principal be removed as the chairman of the CECPC.
He told Saturday Tribune in a telephone interview that Governor Buni was not back in the country as being speculated. He said: “Asking who to resign? He is still the chairman of the party and he won’t resign. As soon as he is back, he will take over his office. He is still the chairman. INEC has made everything clear that as far as they are concerned, Governor Buni is the chairman.
“Have you seen any letter from President Buhari asking Buni to resign? There is no such communication from President Buhari. One day, we will wake up and one Peoples Democratic Party governor will say Buhari asked him to take over as APC chairman. I don’t know if any of the governors fuelling this anarchy will surrender his office as governor if someone says Buhari has asked him to assume office as the state governor in his domain.”
Bello is acting for Buni —CECPC
Addressing newsmen on Friday, spokesman of the APCCECPC, Ismaeel Ahmed, gave indication that the leadership under Governor Bello would proceed with the NEC and national convention as scheduled despite INEC’s stance that it would not partake in the breach of the Electoral Act and the APC constitution.
Asked by newsmen if the APC would defer to INEC’s request for the statutory 21 days notice ahead of the convention, Ahmed who, incidentally, is a lawyer claimed that the commission’s position was a misinterpretation of the Electoral Act. He maintained that there was no need for a fresh notice since the ruling party had earlier informed INEC of an earlier date of February 26.
He said: “Our convention would hold on the 26th of March. I am not only a youth leader or party spokesperson, I am also a lawyer. And we have served a notice to INEC for the 26th of February earlier. We served that notice on the 5th of February and that was the required 21 days. If you are going to make any adjustment to that date, all you need is a letter, making an adjustment to the date. You don’t need another 21 days and that letter was written about two weeks ago, when we realised that we couldn’t hold it on the 26th of February.
“The moment the CECPC agreed on the 26th of March, that letter was written to INEC, the commission has accepted that letter. So that is long gone, it is not an issue. The issue of the date of convention is not in question, not in INEC, not certainly with us. That is settled. It is sacrosanct, that 26th of March, and we have complied with all the rules and we have notified INEC as appropriately expected for us to do that. So, that is no longer an issue.”
Ahmed, however, contradicted Governor Bello who denied knowledge of a letter written by Governor Buni to transfer the administration of the party’s national secretariat to him. The party’s spokesperson confessed that the Yobe State governor actually wrote a letter mandating his Niger State counterpart to take over in acting capacity. He, however, said that the party would not delay the election of new national officers because Buni needed to attend to his health challenge.
“Somebody asked, what is the position of Governor Mai-Mala Buni? I think it is very simple. I don’t know why this is complicated for a lot of people to understand. Since the inception of this CECPC on June 25, 2020, whenever the chairman is not around and Governor Sani Bello is around, he acts on behalf of the acting chairman. It has always been the case that has never changed. It has always been the case.
“And now we have a convention on the 26th of March, the chairman wrote a letter for his leave to go for medical treatment. These are two emergencies. He has a medical emergency that cannot wait for the convention. We have a convention that cannot wait for him to be healthy. So, one has to leave for other. The chairman left, transmitted a letter, Governor Sani Bello has been acting appropriately. What is the problem? Why is it difficult for people to simply understand that?
“I just don’t understand why people are making this an issue. Governor Bello is acting with the full authority of the caretaker committee and with the full authority of the stakeholders and leaders of the party and with the full consent and knowledge of Governor Mai-Mala Buni. It is very clear and very simple. If anybody has any issues with any of our decisions, you can take it to court. For now we are doing it with the full authority and backing of the law. So, there is no ambiguity in this. Absolutely none.”