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Appeal Court: Umeh Remains APGA Chairman

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SAN FRANCISCO, April 09, (THEWILL) - The crisis in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) deepened, Monday, as the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu granted a stay of execution on the Enugu High Court judgment which earlier removed Chief Victor Umeh from office as the party’s chairman.

In a unanimous ruling delivered by the three-man panel led by Justice D. Galinge, the Appeal Court ordered that the parties in the matter should return to the status quo pending the determination of the main suit.

“The judgment by the trial court, restraining the appellant from parading himself as the national chairman of APGA, cannot hold because the appellant contested the jurisdiction of the trial court.

“The Court of Appeal has the responsibility to protect the rights of the applicant, to ensure he does not suffer damages while his appeal is still before the court.

“The restraining order by the Enugu High Court is hereby stayed, pending the determination of the substantive appeal before the court,” the court ruled.

The ruling which came hours after the Peter Obi-faction fast forwarded the election of its National Working Committee (NWC) to Sunday night to pre-empt whatever might be the outcome of the Court of Appeal application by Umeh.

At the election, Okwu, who was elected for a term of four years, polled 790 votes to beat his closest rival who secured 90 votes at the party’s convention at the Women and Children Development Centre, Awka, Anambra State.

The convention was attended by Obi and former Information and Communications Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili, among other stakeholders of the party.

In his acceptance speech, Okwu said the successful congress and convention marked a new dawn in the history of the party.

Obi said it was the first time any party would conduct a successful convention without crisis.

But the leadership of the party in the state loyal to Umeh has said it would punish its members who were involved in last Friday’s expulsion of the state leadership of the party, thus signposting the beginning of a fresh crisis in the party.

The Appeal Court order came against the backdrop of the Enugu High Court ruling delivered by the Chief Justice Innocent Umezulike on February 8, which had prompted Umeh to approach the appellate court seeking, among other reliefs, the stay of execution of the judgment.

At the resumed hearing on Monday, the court, after a lengthy legal arguments by Wole Olanipekun and Arthur Okafor, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria, for the plaintiff and respondent respectively, ruled that since the lower court granted reliefs not sought by the petitioner, the ruling should be stayed pending the determination of the substantive matter.