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Fresh trouble for PDP over court verdicts on convention

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja) and Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt)
16 August 2016   |   5:07 am
A Federal High Court in Rivers State ordered Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Police to monitor and provide security for the convention planned to hold in Port Harcourt.
PDP Secretariat, Abuja

PDP Secretariat, Abuja

No going back, says caretaker panel

From two different courts of equal jurisdiction came yesterday conflicting verdicts that have cast doubt on the holding of the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) tomorrow.

A Federal High Court in Rivers State ordered Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Police to monitor and provide security for the convention planned to hold in Port Harcourt.

The court, in Port Harcourt, also ordered the Inspector General of Police, Rivers State Commissioner of Police and the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) not to interfere with the convention, but should ensure that there is adequate security.

The presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Watila, while ruling yesterday on a motion on notice filed by the secretary of the PDP National Convention Planning Committee, Senator Ben Obi for himself and other members of the panel against the IGP, Rivers State, DSS and INEC, said the defendants were, under democracy, legally bound to provide security and monitor the convention.

“The first, second, third and fourth defendants are hereby mandated to provide security for the national convention of the PDP scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 or any other date and venue pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice or the originating summons as the honourable court may decide.

“The fifth defendant (INEC) is mandated to monitor the national convention.”

Justice Watila explained that a July 4, 2016 judgment of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt had recognised the May 21, 2016 national convention which produced the national caretaker committee. And since the judgment has not been appealed against or set aside, it behoves the court to protect that verdict.

The judge said since there was no injunction against the holding of the August 17th, 2016 national convention in Port Harcourt brought to the attention of the court during the hearing of the application by Obi, the convention should be held as scheduled.

But the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja suspended the convention.

Justice Okon Abang, who issued the order also yesterday, said his decision was in the interest of justice.

He said it was also a disciplinary action against those whom he said, allegedly treated the court with disrespect and levity.

Justice Abang’s interim order was warranted by an earlier interim ex parte order obtained by Obi, who incidentally was made a party in the legal battle rocking PDP.

Counsel to Modu Sheriff’s faction, Adeniyi Akintola (SAN) had brought an application, asking the court to stop the convention. But in his reaction, counsel to first to nine defendants prayed the court to adjourn hearing on the motion till today to enable him to brief his clients.

Although he was served with the motion openly in the court and he admitted to have been duly served, he maintained that it would not be in the interest of fairness to hear the motion immediately.

But his pleas failed to appease Akintola who insisted that the other party may abscond from court today considering their planned convention tomorrow.

He, therefore, prayed the court to make a sentence, restraining all parties from taking further action pending the ruling on the motion.

After a long argument and counter- argument, Abang took time to compile his ruling and drawing the attention of the court later, he said he would have granted an adjournment as requested by Usman, whom he admitted, has never given him troubles.

But for the action of Obi, he went further to suspend the convention as, according to him, “there was an urgent and compelling need to make an order.”

He expressed shock that Obi could secretly go before a Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Division, to obtain an interim order, knowing full well that he was a party seeking to join in the suit filed by Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff’s faction.

Meanwhile, the National Caretaker Committee of the party has said it would proceed with its repeat convention tomorrow in Port Harcourt.

In a statement by its spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye, the caretaker committee cited an order to that effect by‎ a Port Harcourt Federal High Court, saying another interim order restraining it from continuing with the convention would be ignored because it was not superior to the one earlier granted in Port Harcourt.