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Conflicting court orders worsen PDP crisis

Conflicting court orders issued separately by two courts, one in Lagos and the other in Port Harcourt, Rivers States, on Tuesday worsened the leadership crisis rocking the the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While a Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba on Tuesday nullified the seven-man interim committee headed by a former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi; a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt on the same day ordered Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff-led National Executive Committee and National Working Committee from parading themselves as leaders of the party.

The committee headed by Makarfi was appointed on May 21 after the party’s convention to run the affairs of the PDP. Members include a former aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Senator Ben Obi (National Secretary), Sen. Odion Ugbesie, Sen. Abdul Ningi, Mr. Kabir Usman, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye and Alhaja Aisha Aliyu. Justice Ibrahim Buba held that the committee was appointed in violation of an order he made on May 12. He had barred 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 restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from monitoring the election. Justice Buba on Tuesday, further directed the Inspector-General of Police Solomon Arase to enforce the order.

The plaintiffs in the suit are: PDP National Chairman Senator Modu Sheriff; National Secretary Prof. Wale Oladipo and National Auditor Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju. They had prayed the court for an interlocutory injunction restraining the PDP from conducting any election into the offices of the National Chairman, National Secretary and National Auditor which they occupy, pending the hearing of the substantive suit. On Tuesday, Justice Buba held that he would not allow his orders to be violated without consequence, adding that he had an obligation to ensure that his directives were obeyed. “No court can make an order in vain,” he held. Oladipo and Adeyanju’s lawyer, Mr Ajibola Oluyede, informed Justice Buba about an application filed on May 23 in which he prayed the court to invoke its disciplinary powers. He had said that certain steps were taken to remove the plaintiffs from their offices notwithstanding the court’s 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.” Justice Buba said although Oluyede’s application was not ripe for hearing, he was bound to protect the court’s sanctity against violation of its orders. He said that to flout a court order was to invite anarchy. He cited Section 287 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, which provides: “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”.

The judge added: “Therefore, the Inspector-General of Police is directed to enforce the orders of this court until the order is set aside or all the applications before the court are disposed of. “Because of the nature of this matter being political, time is hereby abridged for the hearing of all applications,” he said. The judge warned the Makarfi-led committee “not to act in that capacity in defiance of this order”.

In Port Harcourt, Federal High Court presided over by Justice A. Liman ordered the Sheriff-led NEC and NWC to stop from parading themselves as leaders of PDP. Justice A. Liman, gave the order following an exparte motion filed by the party. The motion was sworn on behalf of the party by Mr D. Laminkara, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and E. Akwuruoha. The Inspector General of Police, Independent National Electoral Commission and Department of State Security were joined in the motion. The court ordered Sheriff and Prof. Adewale Oladapo from continuing to hold themselves individually or collectively as chairman or secretary of the party respectively.

The court directed them to stop parading themselves as National Officer or member of the National Executive Committee or National Working Committee as doing so would negate decisions reached at the National Convention on May 21. It also restrained INEC from according or continuing to accord any recognition to the National Chairman, Secretary and all members of the NEC, NWC who were removed during the convention. It ordered INEC to recognize the National Caretaker Committee appointed by the Convention as the executive authority of the party to conduct primaries for offices and submission of list of candidates to it.

The court also restrained the Sheriff’s led executive from receiving nominations or submitting names to INEC in any capacity pending the hearing and determination of the motion. It also ordered the NEC and NWC not to sign any documents in such capacities prior to their removal pending the determination of the motion. The court fixed hearing on the motion to June 7.

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