A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday declared as null and void the zonal congress held last Saturday by the South-West zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akure.
Justice Ibrahim Buba, who stressed that the congress was held in defiance of a restraining order earlier made by him on May 11, 2016, clarified that the court had to “firmly stand in support of its own order to prevent litigants from turning court cases into a of game of chess.”
In his words: “There is nothing like I will not obey a court order in a democratic setting,” Justice Buba said and nullified the PDP South-West zonal congress as brought in a motion by the PDP South-West Zonal Secretary, Chief Pegba Otemolu.
Otemolu had on May 11, 2016 approached Justice Buba with an ex parte application urging the court to restrain the PDP from going ahead with the scheduled congress in the South-West zone.
Otemolu had claimed that the four-year tenure of the current PDP South-West zonal Executive members began on October 11, 2014, would not end until October 11, 2018.
The respondents in the application were the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); the PDP; its National Chairman and Secretary, Ali Modu Sheriff; and Prof. Wale Oladipo respectively.
At the Tuesday’s proceedings, counsel for the PDP and Sherrif, Dr. Yemi Oke, told the judge that he had to rush to court in view of “a very desperate and sad situation imposed upon us by certain desperate elements.”
Oke claimed that his clients were not aware of the circumstances culminating in the restraining order of the court, claiming that the order was procured by “fraud and gross mischief,” by “desperate elements whose antecedents are known at the Bar.”
He informed the judge that his clients had in the circumstances brought two applications, one of which was praying the court to set aside the proceedings leading to the May 11, 2016 restraining order and another asking the court to stay the execution of the May 16 order, pending the outcome of an appeal already filed by the PDP and Sherrif.
Oke also claimed that the PDP and Sherrif did not authorise any lawyer to file any suit to stop the national convention of the PDP.
He informed the court of a letter dated May 16, 2015, written by Sherrif and addressed to Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), asking him to “take necessary steps to dissociate myself and the party from the said suit with immediate effect.”
“The 2nd and 3rd defendants were never served and never appointed any counsel to stand in for them. The 2nd and 3rd defendants never had notice of the pendency of the suit; to that extent we have served a letter written by the National Chairman of the party, Ali Modu Sherrif, written and signed by him, to the effect that he never appointed any counsel.”
But counsel for the plaintiff, Mr. Ajibola Oluyede, said it was in the record of the court that the defendants were served.
Justice Buba said the fact that Oke had appealed against the May 11 ruling and was seeking a stay of execution were facts that his clients were aware of the restraining order yet went ahead to hold the congress in defiance of court order.
“Parties should not resort to self-help when a matter is before the court,” the judge said while nullifying the congress and adjourned further proceedings till June 8, 2016 for hearing of all pending applications.