PDP crisis worsens, court sacks Makarfi again

•Declares Port Harcourt convention illegal  •We will appeal, convention still holds Aug 17 —Caretaker Committee

A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, barred the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee from exercising any authority or taking any decision on behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) henceforth, describing it as an illegal body.

This came as the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, in a ruling he delivered, affirmed Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the authentic national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The court held that the purported convention held in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, on May 20, 2016 was held in violation of the 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 Abang, who ruled on the tussle between two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Mr Olagoke Fakunle and Ferdinand Obi, said the Makarfi faction, which appointed Obi,  had no legal authority to do so.

He held that the letter by Senator Makarfi-led committee appointing Obi for the PDP was illegal, 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 behalf of the party.

Justice Abang upheld the appointment of Fakunle, having been appointed to represent the PDP by the Sheriff-led committee.

The judge took a swipe at the Makarfi-led group for missing their way to Port-Harcourt to obtain a judgment from a division of the Federal High Court, which is a court of coordinate jurisdiction to that of Lagos, in order to obtain a favourable judgment.

Justice Abang said the judgment of the Port Harcourt division, which recognised Makarfi-led caretaker committee, was unlawful, illegal and had no foundation in law to stand.

He held that until the orders made by the Lagos division of the Federal High Court, which restrained  the PDP from holding convention at the time it did, was set aside, anything done in contravention of the two subsisting orders were unlawful, illegal and should not be recognised.

“If the Makarfi-led caretaker committee, as an apostle of impunity, find 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 of 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 was still subsisting.

“The Port Harcourt division of the Federal High Court, therefore, has no business to have dabbled into the issues of the PDP leadership in the light of the subsisting orders issued in Lagos by a court of competent jurisdiction.

“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 this instance, I have no liver to depart from the Supreme Court decision.

“Though, I have powers to nullify the decision of the Port Harcourt court that recognised the 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 that if they, however, do so, “we have the power to call them to order.”

Justice Abang held that  Sheriff remained the authentic national chairman of the PDP and had the authority to act and take decision on behalf of the party.

He also said any decision outside the Sheriff-led committee was illegal, unlawful and not binding on the party.

Reacting, the Senator Makarfi-led committee described it as objectionable, questionable and very strange to say the least in the history of Nigeria’s judiciary.

It, however, said “the party is law abiding and, therefore, will apply for stay of execution of the order and also appeal it.”

The caretaker committee, in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja, on Thursday night by its spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said the judgment of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt was very clear that the committee was duly constituted and recognised, and in line with that, the scheduled national convention for August 17 would  still hold.

“We have just received information that Justice Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja has granted an order of interlocutory injunction stopping our scheduled national convention in Port Harcourt, but we want to state that the judgment of July 4, 2016 supersedes any ex parte order or interlocutory injunctions. So, our national convention will hold as scheduled in Port Harcourt, Rivers State,” the statement read.

It asked Nigerians and the international community to compel the judiciary to address Justice Abang’s excesses, adding that as a law abiding party, the committee would apply for stay of execution and also appealed the judgment.

Meanwhile, the immediate past national publicity secretary of PDP, Olisa Metuh, has dissociated himself from the suit instituted by the Senator Sheriff’s group, seeking to stop the August 17 convention of the party.

Metuh had been listed as an applicant in the suit alongside Sheriff, Professor Wale Oladipo (national secretary); Dennis Alonge-Niyi (deputy national youth leader); Alhaji Bashir Maidugu (deputy national legal adviser), Mrs Hanatu Ulam (deputy national women leader);  Alhaji Lawa Dutsima Anchi (deputy national auditor) and Chief Okey Nnadozie (deputy national organising secretary).

But in a statement issued on Thursday,  in Abuja, by Richard Ihediwa, his special assistant, Metuh said he was not part of the suit.

The statement said the former party spokesman had been informed that his name was included in the suit in error.

“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.

“It is pertinent to mention that Chief Metuh has not attended any political meeting and/or programme since his chair accident at a function at the party’s national secretariat in April, wherein he aggravated his spinal cord ailment.

“Our appeal to all and sundry, therefore, is that Chief Metuh at this time should be left out of intra-party controversies. His only preoccupation now remains matters concerning his health and the extant court trial,” the statement read.

The PDP held its convention on May 21 in Port Harcourt, where the national working committee of the party led by Sheriff was dissolved and a caretaker committee led by Markarfi was constituted.

Sheriff had gone to court challenging his removal, insisting that he remained the legitimate leader of the party.

The former Borno State governor wanted the court to determine whether his replacement by Makarfi,  a former governor of Kaduna, was lawful or an abuse of court orders.

The Lagos division of the Federal High Court, thereafter, issued a court order restraining the PDP from conducting election into the offices of its national chairman, national secretary and national auditor.

The ruling by Justice Ibrahim Buba was made sequel to an application brought by Sheriff and his colleagues who occupied those positions.

The intention of Sheriff’s application was to prevent elections of new party leaders at the May 21 convention.

However, Justice Valantine Ashi of an Abuja High Court, last month, ordered Ali Modu Sheriff and other officers of the PDP to step down from their positions as national officers of the party.

Though the judge did not specifically mention Sheriff in his judgment, he ordered that those who became national officers of the party by virtue of the 2014 amendment to the constitution of PDP, which the court had declared unlawful, should cease to parade themselves in those capacities.

After a thorough analysis of submissions by parties and evidence presented, Justice Ashi ordered that “the purported amendment of Article 47, Rule 6 of the PDP, 2012 at a special convention held on Wednesday and Thursday, December 10 and 11, 2014 is unconstitutional, null and void, as there was no compliance with mandatory provision of Article 66 (2) and (3) of the same constitution.”