By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, fixed September 29 to decide whether or not he should hands-off the legal tussle between two factions of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, led by Senators Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sheriff.
The judge had on August 15, issued an order of interlocutory injunction that barred the party from conducting its national convention.
The order, which came barely 48 hours to a convention the party scheduled to take place in Port Harcourt on August 17, equally stopped the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from monitoring the exercise.
He said the party must not sponsor any candidate or conduct election into any of its national offices, pending the determination of a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/464/2016, which Sheriff and seven others lodged before the court.
Meanwhile, at the resumed hearing on the matter on Wednesday, Markafi and six other members of the party, through their lawyer, Mr. Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, challenged the jurisdiction of Justice Abang to further preside over the matter.
They asked Justice Abang to hands-off the suit and await judgment of the Court of Appeal on three separate appeals that were entered against his previous decisions on the PDP leadership crisis.
Ukala who notified the court that the appeals were filed on July 28, August 15 and 16, respectively, said there was need for Justice Abang to “step aside” from the case.
“Once an appeal has been entered, the court bellow ought to stand aside and allow the Court of Appeal to have the opportunity to exercise its jurisdiction on the matter”, Ukala submitted.
However, counsel to the plaintiffs, Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN, urged the court to ignore the appellants and go ahead with the substantive suit.
Akintola noted that there was nothing stopping the simultaneous hearing of the three appeals and the suit before the high court.
After listening to both sides, Justice Abang adjourned to rule on the issue.
Aside Sheriff, others listed as plaintiffs in the suit were Prof. Wale Oladapo (National Secretary); Dennis Alonge-Niyi (Deputy National Youth Leader); Alhaji Bashir Maidugu (Deputy National Legal Adviser); Mrs. Hanatu Ulam (Deputy National Women Leader); Alhaji Lawal Dutsima Anchi (Deputy National Auditor); Chief Okey Nnadozie (Deputy National Organising Secretary) and Chief Olisa Metuh (National Publicity Secretary).
The plaintiffs said they filed the suit for themselves and on behalf of the Executive Committee/National Working Committee of the PDP.
Though only PDP and INEC were initially cited as defendants in the case, the court subsequently joined Makarfi and six others as defendants in the suit.
Those also allowed into the matter as 4th to 9th defendants were Senator Ben Obi, Odion Ugbesia, Abdul Ningi, Kabiru Usman, Dayo Adeyeye and Aisha Aliyu.