The crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), took another dimension yesterday, as Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, in a ruling, affirmed Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the authentic national chairman of the party.
The court further nullified the appointment of Senator Ahmed Makarfi as the party’s caretaker committee chairman and also set August 15, 2016, for hearing of the application seeking to stop the August 17 national convention of the party.
The Makarfi-led committee had fixed the party’s national convention for August 17.
LEADERSHIP recalls that two days ago, Sheriff and eight others approached the court seeking to stop the convention from holding.
In his ruling on the application yesterday, the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, held that the purported convention of the party held in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, on May 20, 2016, was in violation of the two orders of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court which barred the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from holding the convention.
The court went further to bar the Makarfi-led caretaker committee from exercising any authority or taking any decision on behalf of the PDP henceforth, on account of being an illegal body.
Earlier, Justice Abang had ruled on the tussle between two counsels, Olagoke Fakunle SAN and Ferdinand Obi SAN, who had announced their appearance for the PDP.
In the ruling, the court held that the Makarfi-led faction of the party, which appointed Obi, had no legal authority to do so.
The letter by the caretaker committee appointing Obi as the PDP’s counsel was subsequently declared illegal and unlawful, and was set aside by the court on the ground that Makarfi had no law to his side to appoint a lawyer for the PDP or carry out any act on its behalf.
Justice Abang upheld the appointment of Fakunle, who was appointed to represent the PDP by the Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction.
The judge took a swipe at the Makarfi-led group for missing their way to Port Harcourt to obtain a judgement from a division of the Federal High Court which is a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction to that of Lagos, to obtain a favourable judgement.
He averred that the judgement of the Port-Harcourt division which recognised the Makarfi-led caretaker committee was unlawful and illegal and has no foundation in law to stand.
Abang further held that until the orders made by the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court which restrained the PDP from holding the convention at the time it did are set aside, anything done would be in contravention of the two subsisting orders and therefore unlawful, illegal and should not be recognised
“If Makarfi-led caretaker committee as an apostle of impunity miss their way to Port Harcourt to get judgement, that judgement cannot stand.
“The Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High court cannot make an order to neutralise the effectiveness and potency of the orders of Lagos Division of the Federal High court.
“As at the time the Makarfi-led committee found their way to the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court, the orders of the Lagos division of the court were still subsisting.
“The Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High court therefore has no business to have dabbled into the issues of PDP leadership in the light of the subsisting orders issued in Lagos by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“Only again, let me make it clear that the Supreme Court has made it clear in a situation like this, something cannot be built on nothing and in the instance case, I have no liver to depart from the Supreme Court decision.
“Though I have powers to nullify the division of the Port Harcourt that recognised Makarfi leadership but I will not do so because there is no application to that effect before me. I will however allow the Court of Appeal to do justice to that,” the court held.
Reacting to the court ruling, Sheriff insisted that the only way forward for the PDP was for the party to allow him organise a fresh national convention as national chairman of the party.
In a statement by his media aide, Inuwa Bwala, he said, “the fact is that Makarfi and co have been on voyage all along. The court has earlier given order which they disobeyed flagrantly; it is not surprising that they have been finally thrown out.
“The way forward is for them to cooperate with Ali Modu-Sheriff; let him organise fresh national convention and let new leadership emerge in PDP, except otherwise if they have another agenda to destroy PDP, they can disobey court order.”
The Makarfi-led leadership of the PDP has described the ruling of Abuja Federal High Court as objectionable, questionable and very strange to say the least, in the history of Nigeria’s judiciary.
The party said it would apply for stay of execution of the order and also appeal it.
In a statement by its spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the Makarfi committee declared that what Justice Okon Abang did was to seat on an appeal over the court of competent and coordinate jurisdiction, and that was what made his interlocutory order very strange.
It went further to note that the judgment of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt was very clear that the national caretaker committee was duly constituted and recognised; and in line with that, the scheduled National Convention for August 17, 2016 still holds.
“We have just received information that Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja has granted an order of interlocutory injunction stopping our scheduled National Convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but we want to state that the judgment of the 4th of July, 2016 supersedes any ex-parte order or interlocutory injunctions. So, our National Convention will hold as scheduled in Port Harcourt, Rivers State,” Adeyeye said.
The party recalled that “the two former judgments before the Port Harcourt judgment, declared that Senator Sheriff is not qualified to be a National Chairman given that the PDP Constitution 2014 which he claimed brought him to power is not in existence and therefore, null and void.
“The PDP wants Nigerians to know that Justice Okon Abang is deliberately engaging in acts of derailing the country’s democracy given the fact that his court is not an Appeal Court that can set aside any judgment. He has penchant for abuse of court processes and actions of legal impunity.”
The party further noted that, “This judge Nigerians will recall, issued judgment against the governor of Abia State that led to INEC re-issuing another Certificate of Return to a man who did not contest election, thereby causing unnecessary hardship on the people of that state.
“He also issued an order to INEC to recognise Senator Sheriff’s candidates in Edo and Ondo states before they could even plan their purported congress in Edo.
“In today’s case, this same judge out rightly denied the PDP representation in court which is unheard of by serving the plaintiff (Sheriff and Co.) who instituted the case also as PDP (defendants). His excesses are extremely absurd, strange and unbecoming of a judge who enjoys putting the judiciary on the spot. We therefore bring this matter before the highest level of judiciary in the country to stop this judge forthwith from waging war against the PDP.
“We are equally calling on Nigerians and the international community to compel Nigeria judiciary to address Justice Abang’s excesses before he kills our hard earned democracy.
“However, the party is law abiding and therefore, will apply for stay of execution of this order and also appeal it.
“Finally, the party calls on all its members and teaming supporters nationwide to remain calm and law abiding and be rest assured that the PDP National Convention will hold as scheduled and all preparation towards the August 17, 2016 National Convention remain the same.
“Justice Okon Abang can give Ali Modu Sheriff thousands of court orders, and that will not stop us from going ahead with planned national convention and other activities we intend to carry out. We have two court orders, which had declared Modu-Sheriff leadership illegal,” the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP stated yesterday.