BY HENRY UMORU
ABUJA—Fear, yesterday, gripped the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, after members of the National Working Committee, NWC, were served with court orders to defend themselves against a court process to sack them from office.
The apprehension of the NWC members was further heightened by revelations that President Goodluck Jonathan had decided to distance himself from the embattled party officials.
The thrust of the legal action, aiming to sack the NWC members from office flowed from the report of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on the March, 2012, convention which produced the present set of national officers. The INEC report which was produced last month asserted that the election of eight of the 12 members of the NWC was irregular and against the stipulations of the PDP election guidelines.
Some party stakeholders based upon the INEC report had recently approached an Abuja High Court to declare the election of the affected national officers illegal.
Those affected by the report were the deputy national chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja; National Organising Secretary; Abubakar Mustapha; National Youth Leader, Alhaji Garba Chiza; Deputy National Youth Leader, Dennis Alonge Niyi; Deputy National Auditor, Senator Umar Ibrahim; Deputy National Woman, Hannatu Ulam and National Woman Leader, Kema Chikwe.
Also affected were Deputy National Organising Secretary, Okechukwu Nnadozie; Deputy National Treasurer, Claudus Inengas; National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon; National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh and Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Binta Goje.
The affected officers according to Vanguard sources had for some time evaded court’s summons but were caught off–guard, yesterday, when the court approved substituted service through the office of the National Chairman.
The substituted service order was granted by S.B. Belgore of Abuja High Court on May 2, 2013 and it came despite a restraining order against the INEC report granted the NWC members by Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court
Justice Belgore in the substituted service ordered, “that leave is granted to the plaintiff/applicant to serve by substituted means of the originating summons, affidavit in support, pre-action counselling and other processes in this suit on the 2nd to the 18th defendants through the office of the 1st defendant’s national chairman at the PDP national secretariat, Wadata Plaza, Wuse Zone 5, Abuja”.
Justice Belgore said upon hearing motion notice dated April 30, 2013 and after hearing the affidavit in support of the application sworn to by Jovita Duru and also after hearing J.S. Okutepa, SAN, with Joni Ichika, granted the said substituted service. The suit was adjourned to May 20 2013.
A source told Vanguard that the PDP National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon on getting the substituted service order, had no choice than to distribute the court order to the affected members of the PDP NWC.
On getting the order, members of the NWC rushed into a meeting at the Presidential Campaign office, Legacy House, Maitama, Abuja to ponder their options.
President Jonathan who aborted a state visit to South Africa and Namibia to deal with the security situation in the North East and Nasarawa State has, however, opted not to mediate in the unfolding action on the fact that the matter was before the courts.
Meanwhile, governors elected on the platform of the PDP, a source told Vanguard, yesterday, were pressurizing the president to push for a mini-convetion to regularize the election of the affected national officers of the party.
The PDP Governors Forum, had in a recent meeting, pushed for the implementation of the INEC report geared towards regularizing the membership of the NWC on the fact that it would lend credibility to the leadership. The governors, it was learnt, fear that the failure to regularize the election could open the party to future legal landmines ahead of the 2015 primaries as the actions conducted by the present NWC could be challenged in the courts.
A governor who spoke on the development said, “When the foundation is faulty, it would produce a weak super structure. A faulty NWC cannot produce acceptable candidates in the primary elections ahead of the 2015 elections. INEC has done its report and there is nothing else for the commission to do than wait and see what the PDP will do with the report. This is a time bomb”.