Affirms Sheriff National Chairman
LEADERSHIP crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, worsened yesterday , as the Federal High Court in Abuja, sacked the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee of the party.
The court, in a ruling by Justice Okon Abang, held that every action the Committee has taken since it emerged through a convention the party purportedly held in Port Harcourt on May 21 , amounted to nullity. “Parties have an uncompromising duty to obey court order until it is set aside. The Lagos Division made orders on May 12 and 20 , forbidding the PDP from removing the Sheriff-led Caretaker Committee. That order is still subsisting. “Having regard to the order of the court, PDP had no lawful authority to hold the convention that led to the emergence of the Markafi-led Committee. “The convention was unlawfully held and the Caretaker Committee was unlawfully and illegally appointed and could not take any legal decision for the PDP in view of the subsisting order of the Lagos Division of this court. “Consequently, any action taken by the Markafi-led Committee, including the purported mandate for legal representation in this matter is hereby declared illegal. “If the Markafi-led Caretaker Committee, as apostles of impunity, missed their way to the Port Harcourt division of this court, that court could not have conveniently assumed jurisdiction to set aside the earlier decision of the Lagos Division. “I hold that the Port Harcourt division of this court cannot make an order to neutralise the potency of the Lagos Division of this court dated 12 and 20 May”. Justice Abang said he would have voided the judgment of the Port Harcourt Division for being a nullity, assuming there was an application to that effect. He warned politicians not to cause disaffection among judges of the High sacks Markafi Court, saying “the culture of impunity must stop in this country”. According to the court, “Ali Modu Sheriff is the National Chairman of the PDP. Any decision not taken by the Sheriff-led Committee is not binding on the PDP”. The ruling came on a day two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, clashed in court over the suit seeking to stop the National Convention of the party billed to hold in Port Harcourt on August 17. The SANs exchanged heated words over who was duly briefed to represent PDP in the suit which the Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction of the party lodged before the Federal High Court in Abuja. Whereas one of the senior lawyers, Mr. Ferdinand Obih, SAN, told the court that he was briefed by the Caretaker Committee of the party led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, his colleague, Mr. Olagoke Fakunle, SAN, maintained that he has the mandate of the “real PDP leadership” to appear in the matter. Fakunle’s submission infuriated Obih who drew attention of the court to the fact that its Port Harcourt Division had on July 4, sacked Sheriff from office as PDP chairman. Obih argued that it was ethically wrong for the plaintiffs, led by Sheriff, to contract Fakunle to represent the PDP which they also sued as the 2nd respondent before the court. “I say with the greatest respect that what is happening before this court today is unfortunate. It is on record that processes for the PDP in this matter was signed by one Bashir Maidugu who was the erstwhile Deputy National Legal Adviser of the party and the 5th plaintiff in this action. “It is scandalous for a plaintiff to sue a defendant and arrange representation for him. In law, a man cannot be both plaintiff and defendant in the same matter”, he argued. Obih tendered in evidence, the judgment of Justice A. M. Liman of the high court in Port Harcourt in suit No. FHC/PH/CS/524/2016, which he said settled issue of who should receive legal processes or engage a lawyer on behalf of the PDP. “If all the plaintiffs were actually in office as national officers of the PDP, there will be no basis for them filing this suit. If there is a dispute between them and the PDP, then they should allow the real PDP they are quarrelling with, to defend its action. “We are duly appointed by the PDP that was recognised in the judgement by Justice Liman, which is the Markafi-led group”, Obih submitted.
He said that he had on June 27 , filed two separate applications on behalf of the PDP, asking the court to disqualify itself from handling Sheriff’s suit on the basis that the matter was already decided by the court in Port Harcourt. However, Fakunle, SAN, urged the court to not only ignore Obih’s submissions, but also order him to immediately withdraw his appearance for the party. “My lord, it is not in contention that PDP briefed us and we accordingly filed processes on its behalf in this matter. “My learned colleague here admitted that the 5th defendant who is the National Deputy Legal Adviser of the party did not brief him. “The judgement of the court in Port Harcourt said absolutely nothing about legal representation for the PDP. That decision is already subject of appeal. “Moreover, no judge of a co-ordinate jurisdiction has the power to set-aside or vary the order this court validly made on June 30 which recognised us. “I urge the court to hold that we are counsel for the PDP and that my learned brother should cease from appearing in this matter forthwith”