The leadership crisis in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday resulted in a judicial stalemate with two courts of co-ordinate jurisdictions issuing separate and contradictory orders in support of the contending parties.
Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, in Lagos, yesterday declared as null and void the caretaker committee constituted over the weekend by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to take over the affairs of the party from its acting national chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff.
Justice Buba also directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, to enforce his order and also arrest whoever parades himself as a member of the caretaker committee of the party.
The judge held that the committee headed by a former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, was appointed in violation of an order he made on May 12, this year.
The court had in the said order restrained the party from conducting elections into offices of the national chairman, national secretary and national auditor pending hearing and determination of the suit.
The judge had also stopped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from monitoring the election.
Justice Buba stated he would not allow his order to be violated without consequence, adding that he had an obligation to ensure his directives were obeyed.
It will be recalled that the national chairman of the party, Sheriff, the national secretary, Adewale Oladipo, and national auditor, Fatai Adeyanju, had filed the suit seeking to stop the party from replacing them. The respondents in the suit are PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, some members, led by the 12 governors of the party, appointed the caretaker committee to run the affairs of the PDP at the convention held in Rivers State last weekend.
Those appointed include Senator Ben Obi (national secretary), Sen. Odion Ugbesie, Sen. Abdul Ningi, Mr. Kabir Usman, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye and Alhaja Aisha Aliyu.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, counsel to Oladipo and Adeyanju, Barrister Ajibola Oluyede, informed the court about an application filed yesterday in which he prayed the court to invoke its disciplinary powers.
“Certain steps were taken to remove the plaintiffs from their office notwithstanding your lordship’s interlocutory injunction which restrained the respondents from taking such steps.
“The steps were taken over the weekend to remove them and it was during the pendency of this action. It is for that reason that we were constrained to file this application. We seek your lordship’s disciplinary jurisdiction to bring back matters to the status quo based on the order of May 12,” the lawyer stated.
In his ruling, Justice Buba said that although Oluyede’s application was not ripe for hearing, he was bound to protect the court’s sanctity against the violation of its orders. He said to ignore the flouting of a court order is to invite anarchy.
The judge cited Section 287 (3) of the 1999 Constitution which says: “The decisions of the Federal High Court, a High Court and of all other courts established by this Constitution shall be enforced in any part of the federation by all authorities and persons, and by other courts of law with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Federal High Court, a High Court and those other courts, respectively.”
The judge further directed the Inspector-General of Police “to enforce the orders of this court until the order is set aside or all the applications before the court are disposed of.”
He also warned the Makarfi-led committee “not to act in that capacity in defiance of this order.”
Before the ruling, there was mild drama as two lawyers, Ahmed Raji (SAN), and Godswill Morakpor, were locked in a heated argument over who, between them, was authorised to represent the PDP. Both had announced appearance for the party.
“There was no attempt to change counsel. I am the counsel on record for the second defendant (PDP). The new caretaker committee has revalidated my appointment. This is the letter,” he said, handing the letter to Justice Buba.
But Morakpor insisted that he was the one authorised to represent PDP, not Raji.
He said, “Today is like a nightmare to me. I never envisaged a situation where I would be dragging a client with a senior member of the Bar. We have filed a notice of change of counsel and served on the learned SAN.”
Raji claimed he was not served with any application for change of counsel for PDP.
The court’s bailiff was sent for, and he confirmed that he indeed served Raji with the application at his office.
Thereafter, Justice Buba held that Morakpor was the recognised counsel for PDP.
The case has been adjourned to May 27.
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has restrained embattled Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Secretary, Professor Rufai Oladipo from parading themselves as officers of the party.
The court, which was presided over by Justice Mohammed Liman, also restrained other members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP from parading themselves as officers of the party.
Rivers State attorney-general and commissioner for justice, Emmanuel Aguma (SAN), said that those joined in the suit, which was filed by the party, are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Inspector-General of Police and the director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Aguma, who was chairman of the Screening Committee for the just concluded PDP national convention, said members of the party’s NWC and NEC were served the suit in a representative capacity through Sheriff and Oladipo.
He said, “Well, as you well know, I was chairman of the Screening Committee for the convention in Port Harcourt. The PDP yesterday went to court to file an action against the national officers of the party who were removed at the national convention. They were served in representative capacity with his Excellency, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as first defendant and Professor Oladapo as the second defendant.
“They were sued for and on behalf of the national officers. Of course, INEC was joined in the suit and also joined were the police and the DSS. Interim orders were sought pending the hearing of the motion on notice. Interim orders were granted and the gist of the interim orders can be summarized as follows:
“The removed national officers should not parade themselves as officers of the party, PDP. The National Working Committee and NEC should not function as organs of the party pending the hearing of the motion on notice. INEC was restrained from receiving any document or any matter howsoever dealing with the removed national officers.”