24 hours to PDP convention: Again, courts give conflicting rulings

•Only national caretaker committee of PDP has executive powers —P/Harcourt court 

•Abuja court stops convention, orders IGP to enforce ruling


THE controversy over the national convention of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) continued on Wednesday, as two courts, again, gave conflicting orders on the convention.

While the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, declared that only the national caretaker committee of the party has executive powers over all matters, including the convention, the Federal High Court in Abuja stopped the convention, while it also ordered the Inspector-General of Police to enforce its ruling.

Earlier, the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had affirmed that only the national caretaker committee of the party had executive powers over all matters concerning the party.

Delivering a  judgment in suit number FHC/PH /CS /585/2016, between Senator Ben Obi for himself and other members of the National Planning Committee of the PDP, and the Inspector-General of Police, the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State,  State Security Service and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Justice Ibrahim Watila ordered the police, DSS and INEC to participate  in  the  August 17 National Convention.

He declared: “It is necessary for  the defendants to carry out their respective  functions on August 17.”

The court declared that its judgment of July 4 remained valid until set aside by a competent jurisdiction,  which in this case, was the Court of Appeal.

The court stressed that all the defendants were clearly and without dispute bound to obey the judgment.

“This court will not shy away from protecting the sanctity of its judgment. The court has held that the appointment of the PDP National Caretaker Committee is valid,” he said.

Justice Watila stated that the defendants were bound by the judgment because they had made no attempt  to set aside the judgment or filed any process in that direction.

He stated: “In view of the subsisting judgment of this Honourable Court in Suit No: FHC/PH /CS /524/2016,  PDP Vs. Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and others, the defendants cannot lawfully interfere or prevent the plaintiff from organising/holding the planned National Convention of the PDP to hold in Port Harcourt, on August 17.”

In granting the originating summons, Justice  Watila declared  that  the defendants  were duly served all the processes of the suit filed by the secretary of the National Caretaker Committee, but chose not to  contest the facts.

Justice Watila  stated that court records indicated that the proceedings and order of August 10 and the interlocutory injunction of  August 15 were served on the defendants with proof of service.

Addressing journalists after the judgment, counsel for Senator Ben Obi, Mr Dejo Lamikanra, said the ruling gave effect to the judgment of July 4 of the Federal High Court.

Lamikanra said: “There is only one judgment with regards to the validity of the convention which held on  May 21 in Port Harcourt and that judgment is that of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt given on the 4th of July. That judgment  is final and it has completely determined questions on the validity of the convention and the validity of the decisions of that convention.

“A ruling or an opinion of a court of coordinate jurisdiction which suggests anything else must be discontinuanced. It is only the Court of Appeal that can set aside the judgment of  the  Federal High Court.”

At the Abuja Federal High Court, Justice Okon Abang stopped the PDP from holding its national convention slated for today in Port-Harcourt.

The judge also barred the party from presenting, electing or recognising anybody as national officer.

Ruling in a motion on notice brought before it by the factional national chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, seeking to stop the convention, which date was fixed by the Makarfi-led caretaker committee, Justice Abang restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from supervising or monitoring the planned convention, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

The trial judge, in the ruling delivered on Tuesday, also ordered the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to enforce his order which stopped the planned convention by the Makarfi-led executive.

In the same vein, the judge directed Senator Sheriff to obtain and fill Form 48, so as to commit anybody or group who may disobey the order of the court to prison.

He lampooned Justice Ibrahim Watila of he Port Harcourt division of the court for dabbling into the PDP matter, when he knew a sister court in Abuja was in charge of the matter.

The judge said that Justice Watila would have done well to refer the suit filed by Senator Ben Obi to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for a directive, instead of assuming jurisdiction.

Apparently furious with the conflicting decision of the two divisions, Justice Abang said the  “the Port Harcourt division had set stage for the legal combatants to determine which of the decisions to obey.

He, however, said anyone or group that disobeyed his orders would have themselves to blame.

Commenting on the alleged desperate remark by a member of the factional caretaker committee of the PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, Justice Abang said his behaviour is “an act of indiscipline, unbecoming of a person with good culture. Anybody scandalising the court of law without any reason is breaking the bridge he will cross one day.

“He is like a person living in a glass house and throwing stones. I have various legal steps to bring him to book, but I will not do so for now, the lenient attitude of this court is not borne out of cowardice. He should show good manners to the court so that he can assist the court to do justice.

“The day I summon him before me, I believe he will have a rethink,” the judge declared.