PDP crises: Sheriff wins as Court nullifies Port Harcourt convention

PDP crises: Sheriff wins as Court nullifies Port Harcourt convention
July 28 21:01 2016

An Abuja Federal High Court on Thursday nullified the national
convention held by the Peoples
Democratic Party on May 21 in
Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

It was at that convention that the
National Working Committee of
the party led by former Governor
Ali Modu Sheriff was dissolved
and a caretaker committee led by
former Governor Ahmed Markarfi
was constituted.

Sheriff has since then been
challenging his removal and has
insisted that he remained the
legitimate leader of the party.

But ruling in a fresh case brought
before his court,
Justice Okon Abang said the May
21 convention was illegal and that Makarfi’s committee was illegally constituted.

Justice Abang gave the ruling
while determining the rightful
counsel to represent the PDP in
the new case.

Sheriff is asking the court to
determine whether his
replacement by Mr. Makarfi was
lawful or an abuse of court
orders.

The Lagos division of the Federal
High Court had 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 application had intended to prevent
elections of new party leaders at the May 21
convention.

But on May 21, the PDP held its convention in
Port Harcourt where Makarfi was
appointed to lead a caretaker committee, a
development that sparked a fresh round of
crisis in the party, with Sheriff insisting
that he remained the legitimate chairman of
the fold.

The two contenders sent two different lawyers
to Justice Abang’s court on Thursday, both
claiming to represent the national chairman of
the party.

The court listened to the two lawyers –
Ferdinand Obi and Adeniyi Akintola — to
enable it to determine who should be the legal
representative of the PDP in the matter.
Giving his ruling,  Abang ruled that in
determining who should be the rightful
counsel to the PDP, it was necessary to decide
whether the caretaker committee led by
Makarfi was rightly constituted or not.

“The convention was unlawfully held and the
caretaker committee was unlawfully
constituted,” the judge ruled.

“If the Markarfi-led faction, as an apostle of
impunity, missed its way to the Port Harcourt
division of the FHC, the court cannot be said
to have acted within its legal jurisdiction in
entertaining the matter,” Mr. Abang said.

He urged politicians to desist from creating
confusion for judges.
Prior to his ruling, the counsel argued for over
seven hours.
Mr. Obi, who represented the Makarfi faction,
argued that it was illegal for the Deputy
National Legal Adviser of the Sheriff faction ,
Bashir Maidugu, to file the suit and then also
receive court processes on behalf of his
faction.

“The plaintiff has no authority to receive
documents for PDP, whom he has sued as the
second defendant,” he said

He further cited a previous ruling by the Port
Harcourt division of the Federal High Court,
which ruled that the decisions taken at the
May 21 convention were completely legal.

He added that the court held in that judgment
that nothing in the decision of the convention
amounted to an abuse of the law.

In his response, Mr. Akintola, who
represented the Sheriff faction, said his client
received the processes for the matter as part
of his official responsibility as a legal officer
representing the PDP.

“I submit that the plaintiff has power to act in
plural capacity. He is a lawyer and the legal
officer for the PDP,”  Akintola said.

He added that the previous case cited by
Obi did not make categorical statement as to
who should represent the PDP, adding that the
decision of his client to act in his statutory
position should not amount to an abuse of
law.
“We urge the court to hold that we are counsel
for the PDP and that my learned brother
should cease to appear for the PDP,” he said.

In his ruling, Justice Abang noted that there
was an order restraining the party from
conducting election into the offices of national
chairman, national secretary and auditor
pending the hearing and determination of a
substantive suit at the Lagos decision of the
Federal High Court.

“Where the court in Port Harcourt had no
jurisdiction for entertaining such matters, a
court of coordinate jurisdiction has legal
prerogative to nullify the decision reached at
the Port Harcourt division of the court,” he
said.

Responding, Mr. Obi prayed the court for an
adjournment, saying the issues raised were
weighty and important for the determination
of the matter.

“They should therefore not be resolved
hastily,” he said.

Justice Abang said the May 21
convention was held despite the decision of
the court, and that the Port Harcourt division
wrongly assumed jurisdiction which led to the
July 4 judgement that nullified the decision of
the Lagos Division of the court.

He therefore ruled that the decision of  Obi
to ask for adjournment rather than respond to
the question posed to him was not meritorious
and therefore his prayer for adjournment
refused.