By Ben Agande, Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Rufus Ike
ABUJA—The leadership crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, deepened, yesterday, as the Federal High Court in Abuja sacked the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee of the party.
This came on a day former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh, denied reports that he was one of the plaintiffs in the suit seeking to halt the party’s August 17, 2016 National Convention.
The court, in a ruling by Justice Okon Abang, held that every action the committee had taken since it emerged through a convention the party purportedly held in Port Harcourt on May 21, amounted to nullity.
The party in a reaction late, yesterday, nevertheless pledged to go ahead with the planned convention as it expressed concern over what it called spate of controversial rulings by Justice Abang on issues affecting the party.
The party in its reaction said it was strange that despite rulings by the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt affirming the legitimacy of the Port Harcourt convention that enthroned the caretaker committee, that Justice Abang decided to sit on appeal over a court of concurrent jurisdiction.
Justice Abang in his ruling yesterday said: “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.”
Makarfi-led c’ttee reacts
Reacting, the Makarfi-led caretaker committee, through its spokesman, Prince Dayo Adedeye said: “What Justice Okon Abang did today is to sit on an appeal over the court of competent and coordinate jurisdiction and that’s what makes his interlocutory order very strange. The judgment of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt was very clear that the National Caretaker Committee was duly constituted and recognized; and in line with that, the scheduled National Convention for August 17, 2016 still holds.
“The PDP wants Nigerians to know that Justice Okon Abang is deliberately engaging in acts of derailing the country’s democracy given the fact that his court is not an Appeal Court that can set aside any judgment.
SANs clash over suit to stop party’s convention
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 Obi, 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 had the mandate of the “real PDP leadership” to appear in the matter.
Fakunle’s submission infuriated Obi, who drew attention of the court to the fact that the party’s Port Harcourt Division had on July 4, sacked Sheriff from office as PDP chairman.
However, Fakunle, SAN, urged the court not only to ignore Obi’s submissions, but also order him to immediately withdraw his appearance for the party.
In his ruling, Justice Abang refused to recognise Obi, SAN, as counsel for PDP in the matter, declaring the two application he filed against hearing of the suit as incompetent.
I’m not part of suit to stop convention —Metuh
However, former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, has denied reports that he was one of the plaintiffs in the suit seeking to halt the party’s August 17, 2016 national convention.
A statement by his Special Assistant, Richard Ihediwa, read in part: “Chief Metuh wishes to inform the public that he is not part of the suit seeking to stop the convention and he never instructed anyone to file any such suit on his behalf.”