The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Adamu, has sworn in Stephen Ntukekpo as chairman of the party in Akwa Ibom State despite a court order directing parties to maintain the status quo.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had on April 7 directed all parties “to maintain the status quo” in an appeal filed by the former secretary of APC Caretaker Committee, John Akpanudoedehe, for a stay of execution as well as challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Abuja which declared Mr Ntukepo as chairman of the party in Akwa Ibom.
However, on April 11, 72 hours after the court directives, Mr Ntukekpo was sworn in by Mr Adamu as the substantive chairman of APC in Akwa Ibom State in defiance of the Appeal Court order.
The party spokesperson, Felix Morka, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
The APC in Akwa Ibom State has been enmeshed in a leadership crisis before and after the state congress of the party in October 2021.
The state congress of the party resulted in two different sets of executives claiming leadership of the party in the state.
Two parallel state congresses of the party were held in October 2021 which produced two parallel state executives, both claiming to be the legitimate body in charge of the party in the state.
One faction is led by Austin Ekanem as state chairman, which is loyal to Mr Akpanudoedeghe emerged from the congress conducted at Sheergrace Arena in Uyo and was reportedly monitored by a committee deployed by the party’s national headquarters and supervised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The second faction led by Mr Ntukekpo as state chairman, which is loyal to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, emerged from the congress conducted the same day but in another location – Kara Event Centre also in the state capital, Uyo.
Leadership crisis amid legal tussle erupted immediately after the state congress, but Mr Akpanudoedehe’s faction, led by Mr Ekanem, had the upper hand when their principal was in office as Caretaker Committee Secretary of the party.
Mr Ekanem was, on March 7, sworn into office as the state chairman of the party along with others by the Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, who was then acting chairman of the party’s caretaker committee while the then chairman, Governor Mala Buni of Yobe State, was abroad for medical treatment.
On March 17, a Federal High Court in Abuja nullified the March 7 swearing-in of Mr Ekanem, and ordered that Mr Ntukekpo be issued with Certificate of Return and sworn in as the party chairman in the state.
Displeased by the ruling of the court, Mr Akpanudoedehe applied for a stay of execution and also challenged the court’s jurisdiction on its March 17 declaration at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
The Appeal Court, after hearing the application, adjourned for the two Motions for Stay of Execution and Jurisdiction to be taken together on May 17 and ordered parties in the matter to maintain the status quo pending the hearing and determination of the two applications.
However, three days after the court directives, one of the parties, the APC, through its National Chairman, Mr Adamu, swore in Mr Ntuekekpo as chairman of the party in the state in defiance of the court order.