Crisis over PDP national convention rages
• Abuja court stops exercise
• P’Harcourt division gives go- ahead
• Event will hold today, says Wike
Will the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hold in Port Harcourt, Rivers State today?
This was the question on the lips of millions of Nigerians yesterday as the leadership drama in the party continued with yet two opposing court judgments that have further torn the PDP apart.
Reaffirming the validity of the Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee of the PDP, a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, yesterday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor the party’s convention today. And to avoid a breakdown of law and order, the court ordered the police to ensure adequate protection before, during and after the convention.
Justice Ibrahim Watila, while delivering the judgment in a suit filed by the Secretary of the PDP National Convention Planning Committee, Senator Ben Obi, said the judgment of the court which validated the decision of the May21, 2016 convention of the party that sacked Ali Modu Sherriff, and appointed the Makarfi-led caretaker committee, was still subsisting. And based on this, he said, INEC and the police are bound by law to monitor and provide security at today’s convention of the PDP in Port Harcourt.
Obi had on behalf of the convention planning committee filed an originating summons seeking to effect the judgment of the court delivered on July 4, 2016 which affirmed the appointment of the Makarfi- led caretaker committee and the sacking of the Sherriff-led national executive of the PDP.
Justice Watila who rebuffed an attempt by Yemi George, counsel to Sheriff, to be heard by the court while he was about to deliver his judgment on the case, said the defendants in the suit, the Inspector-General of Police, Commissioner of Police, Rivers State, Department of State Services and INEC, who were parties to the suit that validated the May 21 PDP convention, failed despite being served, to contest or file processes during the matter.
“I need to further state that judgment of court or its order does not require enforcement in that all the successful party needs is to show the judgment or the order. But from the plaintiffs’ position, it is saying that the first to the fifth respondents are duty bound to present themselves at his convention slated for 17th August, to ensure law and order and carry out their constitutional and statutory duties,” he said.
But the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, yesterday ordered the stoppage of the convention.
The court also barred the party from presenting anybody, electing, or recognising anybody as national officer from the convention.
Delivering ruling on a motion on notice filed by the factional National Chairman of the party, Ali-Modu Sheriff yesterday, Justice Okon Abang restrained INEC from supervising or monitoring the convention pending the outcome of the substantive suit filed by Sheriff. He also ordered the police to enforce the order.
Justice Abang had taken a swipe at his colleague in the Port Court Division, Justice Watila, for allegedly meddling in the issue despite the Abuja order.
The judge, who was not pleased with the conflicting decisions of the two divisions of one court, noted that his colleague has set the stage for a legal war in determining which of the decisions to obey.
Noting that his division was not struggling with the Port Harcourt division, he held that his colleague would have called the attention of the chief judge of the Federal High Court to the case file.
“Though this court is not contesting the decision of that court, the case was first assigned to this court.
I also have my doubt if the Port Harcourt division has jurisdiction to decide on PDP issue because they are in Abuja.”
Meanwhile, the Rivers State governor and chairman of the convention planning committee, Nyesom Wike, has declared that the event will still hold today irrespective of the Abuja High Court’s order stopping it.