Conflicting court rulings deepen PDP’s crisis

By Ikenga Chronicles May 25, 2016

— Alifa Daniel (Abuja), Joseph Onyekwere (Lagos), Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt) and John Ogiji (Minna)

  • One declares interim executive illegal
  • Another restrains Sheriff, others as party officers
  • BoT endorses Sheriff’s removal

For crisis-torn People’s Democratic Party (PDP), respite is not in sight yet. In fact, the rift has widened following a declaration by the Federal High Court, Lagos that the seven-man interim committee appointed last Saturday to run the affairs of the party is illegal.

The judge also directed the Inspector-General of Police Solomon Arase to enforce the order of the court and ensure that the illegal committee members are not recognised.

That declaration came almost about the same time that a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State issued an interim injunction restraining former acting national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and others removed by the party’s convention from parading themselves as though in office.

This came as the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP declared that it would soon announce policies and programmes that would lead to the election of credible officers to run the affairs of the party.

Secretary to the Board of Trustees, Ojo Maduekwe, who addressed a press conference in Abuja last night, said the Board believed that the removal of the former NW, including the chairman, Ali Modu Sherif, was in order.

He said that since no court had stopped the BOT from performing its functions, it would go ahead to provide leadership for the party.
Maduekwe, who said that the Board of Trustees was bound by the decision of the Port Harcourt national convention in appointing the caretaker committee, stated that the Board had immense respect for members of the caretaker committee.

The presiding judge, Justice A.M. Liman, had granted recognition to the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee appointed by the national convention of the party held in Port Harcourt last Saturday.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the party in Niger State, Tanko Beji has said they are not aware of any faction and that they are solidly behind all the decisions taken at the national convention in Port Harcourt.

Justice Buba had said: “The inspector-general of police is directed to enforce the orders of this court until the order is set aside or all the applications before the court are disposed of.

“Because of the nature of this matter being political, time is hereby abridged for the hearing of all applications.”The committee members headed by Makarfi, a former governor of Kaduna State, were appointed after the party’s convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.

Other members include erstwhile aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Senator Ben Obi, Sen. Odion Ugbesie, Sen. Abdul Ningi, Mr. Kabir Usman, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye and Alhaja Aisha Aliyu.Buba held that the committee was appointed in violation of an order he made on May 12.

In that order, the court barred the party from conducting elections into offices of the national chairman, national secretary and national auditor pending the hearing and determination of the suit. The judge had also restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from monitoring the election.

The plaintiffs are the PDP National Chairman, Senator Modu Sheriff; National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo and National Auditor, Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju.

They had prayed the court for an interlocutory injunction restraining PDP from conducting any election into the offices of the national chairman, national secretary and national auditor which they occupy, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

Justice Buba said he would not allow his order to be violated without consequence, adding that he had an obligation to ensure his directives were obeyed. He said: “No court can make an order in vain.”

At yesterday’s sitting, Oladipo and Adeyanju’s counsel, Ajibola Oluyede, informed Justice Buba about an application he filed two days earlier in which he prayed the court to invoke its disciplinary powers.

He said: “Certain steps were taken to remove the plaintiffs from their office notwithstanding your lordship’s interlocutory injunction which restrained the respondents from taking such steps.

“The steps were taken over the weekend to remove them and it was during the pendency of this action. It is for that reason that we were constrained to file this application. We seek your lordship’s disciplinary jurisdiction to bring back matters to the status quo based on the order of May 12.”

Justice Buba said although Oluyede’s application was not ripe for hearing, he was bound to protect the court’s sanctity against violation of its orders. He said to ignore flouting a court order is to invite anarchy.

He quoted Section 287 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, which says: “The decisions of the Federal High Court, a High Court and of all other courts established by this Constitution shall be enforced in any part of the federation by all authorities and persons, and by other courts of law with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Federal High Court, a High Court and those other courts, respectively.”

The judge warned the Makarfi-led committee “not to act in that capacity in defiance of this order.”Before the ruling, there was mild drama as two counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN) and Godswill Morakpor, were locked in a heated argument over who, between them, was authorised to represent PDP. Both announced appearance for the PDP.

Ruling, Justice Buba held that Morakpor is the recognised counsel for PDP.Justice Liman’s injunction followed a suit filed by PDP’s counsel, Dajo Laminkanra (SAN) asking the court to bar Sheriff, Prof. Adewale Oladipo, members of the national executive committee and national working committee of the PDP removed from office by the national convention which held in Port Harcourt on Saturday.

The court also barred the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Inspector of Police and the Department of State Security from according or continuing to accord any recognition to Sheriff and Oladipo or any or all the national officers, the members of both the national executive committee and members of the national working committee of the PDP who were removed from office by the national convention in Port Harcourt last weekend.

The court also granted PDP’s request seeking to restrain the Sheriff from receiving nominations and or submitting names to the INEC as officers or candidates of the party in whatever capacity pending the determination of the matter.

The court also restrained the INEC from accepting or considering any nominations, names or documents submitted, signed and or endorsed by both Sherriff and Oladipo or any other national officer as well members of the national working committee of the party removed from office at the Port Harcourt convention.

The suit demanded that the court should direct INEC to recognise the Makarfi-led national caretaker committee as appointed by the convention as having the executive authority of the PDP to conduct the primary elections for political officers and submission of the party’s list of candidates for any elections to be conducted by INEC pending the determination of the matter in court.

The court has meanwhile granted the PDP leave to serve the originating summons on the defendants in the suit. The motion on notice has been fixed for hearing on June 7, 2016.

In a statement made available to reporters in Minna yesterday, Beji said the state PDP believed that the Port Harcourt convention was properly constituted and was conducted in line with the constitution of the party.

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