A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has again affirmed Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the authentic National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), even as it nullified the appointment of Ahmed Makarfi as the caretaker committee chairman of the party.
The court held that the purported convention held in Port Harcourt on May 20 was in violation of two court 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.
Justice Okon Abang in a ruling yesterday barred 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.
The Makarfi Caretaker Committee reacted instantly yesterday describing Abang’s ruling as objectionable, questionable and very strange.
In a statement by its spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the committee accused Abang of constituting his court into an appellate court, overruling a decision of a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction. And in an open defiance of Abang’s ruling, it said the scheduled National Convention for August 17, 2016 would hold without fail.
Abang, among others, had ruled that the lawyer hired by the Makarfi faction of the party could not represent the party. He chose to recognise the lawyer hired by the Sherriff’s faction.
He held that the letter by Senator Makarfi appointing Ferdinand Obi (SAN) for PDP was illegal, unlawful and was set aside by the court on the ground that Makarfi has no law to his side to appoint a lawyer for PDP or carry out any act on behalf of the party.
Justice Abang upheld the appointment of Olagoke Fakunle (SAN), having been appointed to represent PDP by the Sheriff-led committee.
The judge took a swipe at the Makarfi-led group for going to Port Harcourt to obtain a favourable judgment from a division of the Federal High Court which is a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction to that of Lagos.
Justice Abang said that the judgment of the Port Harcourt division, which recognised the Makarfi-led caretaker committee was unlawful, illegal and has no foundation in law to stand.
He 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 was set aside, anything done in contravention of the two subsisting orders are unlawful, illegal and should not be recognised.
“The Makarfi-led caretaker committee, as an apostle of impunity kiss their way to Port Harcourt to get judgment. That judgment cannot stand.
“The Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court cannot make an order to neutralise the effectiveness and potency of orders of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
“As at the time the Makarfi-led committee found its way to the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court, the orders of the Lagos division of the court was 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 Court 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,” he said.
The judge further admonished politicians not to cause disaffection among judges of the Federal High Court, adding: “If they do so, we have the power to call them to order.”
He said: “The culture of impunity must stop in this country. We have come of age and we should do things in line with the law.”
Justice Abang held that Sheriff remains the authentic national chairman of the PDP and has the authority to act and take decisions on behalf of the party.
He also said that any decision outside the Sheriff-led committee was illegal, unlawful and not binding on the party.
Metuh Dissociates Self from Sheriff’s Suit
Sheriff’s judicial victory in the court presided over by Justice Abang was dampened by a denial from the party’s former National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, that he was involved in the case.
In a statement yesterday by his Special Assistant, Richard Ihediwa, he said he was neither part of the suit nor did he instruct anyone to file any such suit on his behalf.
“Chief Metuh wishes to inform the general public that he is not part of the suit seeking to stop the convention and he never instructed anyone to file any such suit on his behalf,” he said, adding: “For the avoidance of doubt, Chief Metuh has taken the pains to consult those that went to court and has been reliably informed that his name was listed in error and which they have promised to rectify accordingly.”
Makarfi Committee Reacts
But the Makarfi committee said that it would ignore the court ruling by Justice Abang as a non-event and proceed with its 17 August, 2016 Port Harcourt Convention.
It said: “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.
“Let Nigerians recall that 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 the penchant for abuse of court processes and actions of legal impunity. 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 for 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 State.
“In today’s case, this same judge outrightly denied the PDP representation in court, which is unheard of by serving the plaintiff (Sheriff & 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 the 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 the 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 teeming 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 remains the same.”
PDP Withdraws Letter on Anenih
Meanwhile, the Makarfi-led leadership of the party has withdrawn a letter in which the defunct National Working Committee (NWC) of the party accused a former chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, of engaging in anti-party activities during the last general election.
In the letter dated July 22 and signed by the Secretary of the Caretaker Committee, Senator Ben Obi, the party referred to a 19 May, 2015 letter by the former NWC and signed by Prof. Wale Oladipo, former National Secretary of the PDP, where it accused Anenih of anti-party activities in Imo State during the last presidential and state elections.
The party said: “To finally clear all issues relating to this matter and based on your request to meet with the current Caretaker Committee, and the agreed meeting which took place on the 13th of July 2016, the Committee Chairman, His Excellency Senator Ahmed Makarfi, CON, wishes to thank you for appearing before it to finally clear all issues relating to this matter.
“Having heard from you, and made some consultations, the Caretaker Committee has reviewed the whole episode and decided to withdraw the said letter from and by the defunct National Working Committee.
“The Chairman of the Caretaker Committee also wishes to thank you for remaining steadfast as a leader of the party and a foundation member of the Board of Trustees despite the discomfort the said letter may have caused you.
We respectfully urge you to consider whatever discomfort caused by this issue as part of your continuing sacrifice towards building our great party, the PDP.
“Finally, we will continue to count on your advice, immense leadership capacity and wealth of experience for the betterment of the party. Please accept, our dear Leader, the assurances of our highest regards and esteem.”
In his reply, Anenih, in a letter dated 25 July, 2016 acknowledged the PDP letter, and thanked the leadership of the party for the review of his indictment.
He said: “I thank you for reposing confidence in me and my invaluable contributions. I completely agree with you that the party will continue to count on my advice, immense leadership capacity and wealth of experience for the betterment of our party and nation at large.
“I believe in your leadership of the National Caretaker Committee and I am convinced that the process that the Committee has embarked upon to reposition our party will lead to positive results, one of which is our expected God-given and people-sanctioned victory in the September 10, 2016 gubernatorial election in Edo State,” Anenih stressed.