The fight for the control of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum between Rivers Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, and Plateau Governor, Jonah Jang, took a different turn on Friday as pro-Ameachi governors, represented by Lagos Governor, Babatunde Fashola, went to court to stop Jang from parading himself as the chairman of the NGF.
Fashola, who filed the suit at the Federal Capital Territory High Court in his capacity as a member of the forum, asked the court to declare that Jang is not competent to be called the elected chairman of the NGF.
Apart from Jang, other defendants in the suit are the Director-General of the NGF, Asishana Okauru; the Sole Administrator purportedly appointed by Jang, Osaro Onaiwu, and the Registered Trustees of the NGF vested with the power to administer and manage the trusts of the NGF.
In the writ of summons filed by a former Lagos Attorney General, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) and former West African Bar Association President, Femi Falana (SAN), Fashola maintained that 35 governors participated in the election that returned Amaechi as the NGF chairman.
He, therefore, asked the court to stop Jang from parading himself “as the elected chairman of the NGF in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.”
Fashola is also seeking a declaration that the first defendant (Jang) is not competent to relocate the secretariat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum from No. 1, Deng Xiaoping Street, Off AIT Junction, Asokoro Extension, Abuja to No. 2, Nana Close, by Ene Crescent, Off Nile Street, Maitama, Abuja or to any other place.
The plaintiff revealed that Okauru had been under pressure from Jang to handover the assets and documents of the NGF to him (Jang).
He therefore asked the court to declare that Okauru “is not competent to handover the assets and documents of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to the first defendant, his agents, privies and servants in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.”
Apart from these, the Lagos State governor also asked the court to declare that the second defendant (Okauru) is not competent to use the name Nigeria Governors’ Forum in respect of any other organisation which does not have the 36 governors as members and/or in any other manner inconsistent with the constitution of the governors’ forum.
He is also seeking an Order of Perpetual Injunction restraining Okauru from handing over the property and documents of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to Jang, his agents, privies and servants in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.
In addition to these, Fashola asked for, “an Order of Injunction restraining the third defendant from parading himself as the Sole Administrator of the forum in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.”
In the statement of claim, Fashola stated that he would rely on the NGF’s registered constitution at the trial.
He averred that the election into the post of the chairman of the NGF took place at the Rivers State Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja on Friday, May 25, 2013.
“The governors of Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, and Zamfara states took part in the said election.
“The four candidates who submitted nomination forms for the election were the governors of Bauchi, Katsina, Plateau and Rivers states. The nomination forms will be relied upon at the trial of this suit. Before the said election, the governors of Bauchi and Katsina states withdrew from the election leaving the contest for the governors of Plateau and Rivers states. Thereafter, the 35 governors voted for the candidates of their choice.
“At the end of the voting, the Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, scored 19 votes while his rival, the Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Jonah Jang, scored 16 votes.
“Consequently, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State was declared the winner of the election. At the trial of this suit, the plaintiff will rely on the video recording of the election which has been broadcast by theAIT and Channels Television stations.”
The Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, on Friday, said that pro-Amaechi governors were fully behind Fashola.
Speaking through his Commissioner for Special Duties and Regional Integration, Mr. Ajibola Basiru, Aregbesola said Fashola, as a member of the NGF, had the right to challenge any illegality by the forum.
Aregbesola said, “Any action to further entrench democracy is supported by Osun. This suit is one of such actions. Jang’s action is ridiculous. Recent developments have shown that he didn’t win the election.
“When he wanted to inaugurate the forum’s secretariat in Abuja, he sent invitation cards to governors and only 16 governors, including himself, honoured the invitation. If you truly won an election and you feel you are being denied your mandate, you go to court. You don’t resort to self-help.”
Similarly, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State said he was fully in support of his Lagos State counterpart action’s to stop the pro-Jang governors from operating through the court action.
Fayemi, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olayinka Oyebode, said Amaechi won the NGF election which was credible and that the opening of another secretariat was illegal.
He said, “Mr. Governor is fully in support of the court action. He is aware of it and he is throwing his weight behind Governor Fashola on this matter.”
Reacting to Fashola’s court action, the Secretary to the Plateau State Government, Prof. Shedrack Best, said if pro-Amaechi governors were in the majority, there was no need for a law suit.
“If Governor Fashola claims that his camp has the majority, he does not need to go to court. Let him call them and showcase them.”
Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, who is in Jang’s camp, also said governors were free to stop being members of the forum “because it is a free association.”
He said, “We are not proud of what has happened. We are saying we must sit for what is just. It is an association of equals. It is a voluntary association. Anybody can pull out without any consequences.
“A situation where a chairman of a forum of equals decided to contest election while holding the position is not right.
“Some of us argue that he (Amaechi) was there by consensus and we expected that he should step down. Immediately he indicated his interest, I said he must dissolve the house then elect a pro tem chairman. Yes, it has always been a consensus issue and we know that the PDP endorsed Jang. If somebody planted a camera somewhere because it was his own house or because of lack of respect for others, it is too bad.”
Efforts to speak with the Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Olisa Metuh, on Friday were futile. When one of our correspondents called him on the phone, there was no response from Metuh. Subsequent calls made to his phone were not picked.
Jang who is believed to have the backing of President Goodluck Jonathan had lost the chairmanship election to Amaechi by 19 votes to 16.
He, however, refused to accept defeat and instead proclaimed himself as the authentic chairman of the forum.
Jang also appointed a sole administrator in place of the director-general of the forum.
Few days after Amaechi won the election with the support of opposition governors, the PDP suspended him as its member.
Jang’s faction of the NGF also opened a parallel secretariat in Abuja on Thursday.