Court confirms removal of Sheriff as PDP national chairman

MORE troubles came the way of embattled Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as a Federal High Court, sitting in Port Harcourt, on Monday, affirmed his removal as the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

This was as the court, presided over by Justice Abdullahi Liman, ruled that the National Convention of the party, held in Port Harcourt on May 21, 2016, was duly constituted, declaring that the dissolution of the National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee by that convention were valid.

In his judgment on the suit filed by PDP against Senator Sheriff and others, Justice Liman declared that the appointment of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee of the party to oversee  its affairs  was legal and in line with the provisions of the PDP Constitution.

According to the trial judge, Article 31 (1) of the party’s constitution vested the powers to convene a national convention on the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC).

The court held that, pursuant to the constitution of the party, the former PDP acting national chairman had no powers to unilaterally postpone the properly constituted national convention on a day all delegates had converged on Port Harcourt, the host city.

Justice Liman described the action of Senator Sheriff as unconscionable and pointed out that the former PDP acting national chairman participated in all the processes leading to the national convention, only to make a U-turn at the final minute after he had been screened and disqualified.

He said after Sheriff was disqualified following his screening, the only option left to him was to had gone to the venue of the convention to seek the opinion of delegates on whether they were prepared to go on with the convention or not.

According to Justice Liman, the absence of Senator Sheriff from the convention did not reduce anything from the process of the conduct of the convention as his powers were not usurped.

He said under Article 35 (b) of the PDP Constitution , in the absence of the chairman, the deputy chairman was empowered to preside over the national convention and, therefore, ruled that the May 21, 2016 PDP  National Convention, held in Port Harcourt, was properly constituted and the decisions taken at the convention, valid.

The Port Harcourt Federal High Court further ruled that, in line with Article 33 (2) of the PDP Constitution, its National Convention was supreme and can exercise the powers to dissolve the party’s NWC and NEC.

On the issue of the abuse of court process as claimed by the former PDP acting national chairman, the court held that the plaintiffs in the case in question were not the same in the cases mentioned by the defendants, noting that the plaintiffs’ suit only centred on the National Convention.

The court noted that, five days to the National Convention, Senator Sheriff had, through his counsel’s dissociated himself from one of the suits they filed via proxies.

Justice Liman also emphasised that there was no suit challenging the conduct of the National Convention in Port Harcourt and that no injunction was sought to stop the convention.

Speaking with newsmen after the judgment, PDP counsel, Dejo Lamikanra  (SAN), said the judgment had settled all the contending issues concerning the party.

According to him, with the judgement, the decision of the National Convention to appoint a caretaker committee remained valid, adding that Senator Sheriff was duly sacked.

Interestingly, counsel to Senator Sheriff, Mr John Abu, commended the court for its judgment.

In his remarks, secretary of the PDP Caretaker Committee, Senator Ben Obi, declared that the committee would now settle down to carry out the responsibility bestowed on it by the National Convention.