PDP convention: Rivers court orders INEC, DSS, police to monitor, provide security •As Abuja court stops convention

Professor Mamood Yakubu, INEC Chairman

While a Federal High Court sitting Abuja ordered the suspension of the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, tomorrow, another Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, on Monday, validated the convention.

Earlier, the court sitting in Port Harcourt had directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police and the Department of Security Service (DSS), respectively, to monitor and provide security during the convention.

Justice Ibrahim Watila gave the orders in Port Harcourt, while ruling on a motion on notice, in suit number FHC/ PH/CS/585/2016, filed by the secretary of the PDP national convention planning committee, Senator Ben Obi, for himself and other members of the committee against the Inspector-General of Police, Rivers State Commissioner of Police, DSS and INEC.

Similarly, chairman of the PDP national convention planning committee, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, also assured that the convention would hold as scheduled, noting that it was backed by the court and all other legal authorities.

Justice Watila ruled that: “The first, second, third and fourth defendants are hereby mandated to provide security for the national convention of the PDP, scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt, on Wednesday, August 17 2016 or any other date and venue, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice or the originating summons as the honourable court may decide.

“The fifth defendant (INEC) is mandated to monitor the national convention of PDP, scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt, on Wednesday, August 17, 2016  or any other date and venue, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice or the originating summons as the honourable court may decide.”

The Port Harcourt Federal High Court also ordered that the police, DSS and INEC be served by substituted means through their respective offices in Port Harcourt.

The trial judge declared that the judgment, on July 4, 2016, of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, which recognised the  May 21, 2016 national convention and which produced the PDP national caretaker committee, had not been appealed against or set aside, hence the court would protect that judgment.

He said there was no injunction against the holding of the convention in Port Harcourt, on Wednesday, as brought to the attention of the court during the hearing of the application by Senator Obi, adding that the affidavit tendered by the plaintiff/applicant was true, as it was not contested at any point by the defendants, though they were duly served.

Justice Watila adjourned till today (Tuesday) hearing on the originating summons filed by Senator Obi, even as Obi’s counsel, Nyeche Wori, said, by the interlocutory injunction, PDP had obtained a legal backing to go ahead with the convention as scheduled.

Reacting to the ruling, Governor Wike, who doubled as the chairman of the PDP national convention committee, said the stage was set for the convention.

“Let me assure you that, as the chairman of the national convention planning committee, we are backed  by law and the court that the convention will go ahead.

“The court has recognised the May 21 national convention before now in its July 4, 2016 judgment. Again, today, the Federal High Court has re-confirmed that INEC should monitor the August 17, 2016 national Cconvention and that the security  agencies should provide  security  as required,” he said.

The governor further clarified that the PDP national caretaker committee joined INEC and the security agencies in the suit because they were party in the July 4, 2016 judgment.

In a ruling delivered On Monday, Justice Abang said the order for the suspension of the convention was in the interest of justice to both parties in a suit pending before him, explaining further that the order was issued to curb the excesses of some parties in the matter and to serve as a disciplinary action against those treating the court with levity.

He said this was with particular  reference to  Senator Ben Obi, a member of the Ahmed Makarfi-led care taker committee of the party.

Justice Okon’s order, on Monday,  followed an interim order obtained by Obi from a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt in which the Police, the DSS and the Director -General DSS were restrained from interfering or stopping the Port Harcourt convention.

The ex parte order also directed the INEC to supervise and monitor the convention planned by the Senator Makarfi-led faction and the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the party.

Justice Abang, whose attention was drawn to a copy of the ex parte order obtained by Obi, who had been joined as a party in the case before him, said the action of Obi in filing the motion was in bad taste.

The judge held that Obi secretly went to Port Harcourt to obtain the said order when he knew that he was a party seeking to be joined in the legal action filed by the Ali Modu-Sheriff faction seeking to stop the Port Harcourt convention.

“Senator Ben Obi cannot undermine the authority of this court having become aware of the pendency of this matter, he ought to have waited for the outcome of this court. He cannot slap the court in the face and expect the court to grant him any indulgence.

“Democracy is not anchored on the whims and caprices of anybody, it is also not anchored on self help. Obi cannot treat the court with levity. It is unfortunate and unfair that he approached the Port Harcourt court for the ex parte order which was granted to him.

“To curb the excesses of the recalcitrant part and to prove that courts are not bull dogs that can bark, but cannot bite, I am inclined to grant the request of Sheriff and I hereby make an order suspending the PDP convention of August 17, 2016  in exercise of my disciplinary jurisdiction to maintain the dignity and integrity of the court”, the court held.

Earlier, Justice Abang had joined Senators Ahmed Makarfi, Ben Obi Odion Ugbesia, Abdul Ningi, Mr Kabiru Usman, Mr Dayo Adeyeye and Hajia Aisha Aliyu individually as parties to Sheriff’s suit as defendants.

The judge also refused to grant the stay of execution of the ruling of July 28 in which he affirmed the leadership of the Sheriff-led faction of the PDP.

Justice Abang said  Mr Ferdinand Orbih, who made the request for stay of execution on behalf of the Makarfi-led faction, lacked the locus standi to have made the request because he was not a party to the suit that brought the ruling.

The court described the lawyer as a busy body and a meddlesome interloper and imposed a fine of N50,000 on him for attempting to thwart the proceedings of the court.

The Judge frowned on Orbih’s claim that he had filed an appeal against the ruling, adding that the lawyer failed to put the notice of the appeal at the disposal of the court and that his claim that he had transmitted the court record to the Court of Appeal was an exercise in futility, because he did not obtain the permission of the court before doing so.

The court had also dismissed an application brought by one Mr Sikiru Ogundele asking the court to disqualify itself from the matter on account of being biased.

Abang said it was on record that Ogundele was not a party to the suit, therefore, he could not seek for any reliefs.

Meanwhile, the court will today commence hearing in the substantive motion brought before it by Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff seeking to stop the August 17 convention of the PDP.

Sheriff had filed a court action challenging the legality of the planned PDP convention and prayed the court to stop it on the grounds that it was being organised by a body not known to the law.