There is anxiety within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the Supreme Court commences hearing on the party’s leaderships tussle today.
The apex court is adjudicating over an appeal filed by the PDP Caretaker Committee challenging the Appeal Court, Port Harcourt judgment, which affirmed Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the national chairman of the party.
The Appeal Court in its judgment also declared the PDP May 21, 2016 National Convention, where the caretaker committee was appointed after the dissolution of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) led by Sheriff , as null and void.
Sheriff, through his counsel, Akinlolu Olujinmi (SAN), had filed a motion challenging the competence of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee to file the appeal in the name of the PDP.
The Supreme Court, it was gathered, would be taking the motion alongside the substantive suit.
Recently, activities at the National Headquarter of the PDP, Wadata House, where Sheriff operates from have grounded to a halt.
Apart from the presence of security officials and party officials who breeze into the secretariat once in a while, the PDP headquarter is more or less a dead zone.
Party sources said this is because of apprehension over where the Supreme Court judgment would swing to.
Daily Sun gathered that the Sheriff group has put on hold some of its planned programme, pending the ruling of the Supreme Court on its motion challenging the locus of the caretaker committee to file an appeal in the name of the PDP, without the permission of the national chairman.
Also, activities in the temporary secretariat of the caretaker committee located in Wuse, in the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Abuja has also died down completely.
However, both Sheriff and Makarfi camps told Daily Sun yesterday, in separate telephone interviews, that it is not true that they are apprehensive over the Supreme Court case.
According to Sheriff’s deputy, Cairo Ojoughoh, they are on the side of the law, so there is no need to be afraid.
“Why would we be apprehensive when we are on the side of the law. We are sure that the Supreme Court will do what is right,” Ojoughoh stated.
On his part, the legal adviser of the caretaker committee, Dave Iorhemba, said the committee has a good case.
He said: “We are not apprehensive. Our case is good. We want the Supreme Court to make a prouncement on the place of party convention in the affairs of political party, not just the PDP. We have a good case before the court.”
This is coming as the Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Hon Leo Ogor, has called on the Supreme Court to expedite on the PDP leaderships tussle.
Ogor, who said they are awaiting on the verdict of the apex, told Daily Sun in an interview that the earlier the Supreme Court gives its judgment on the party dispute, the better for the PDP.
The minority leader said the outcome of the Supreme Court case would determine their next action, noting that he is convinced that the caretaker committee did not get a fair judgment from the Appeal Court.
“For us, we wait on the Supreme Court. And like I have always said, justice delayed is justice denied. The Supreme Court will do us a major favour by coming out with a clear position as soon as possible, because various elections are taking place at the moment.
“And it is important that this matter is taken care of for once and for all.
“I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that we didn’t get fair judgment from the Court of Appeal, that is why we have ran to the Supreme Court. Whatever decision that comes out from the Supreme Court, we will take our next step from there.
“We know we are at the final bus stop, whatever comes out from there, the next step will be taken,” Ogor stated.
… ‘Why apex court can’t hear Makarfi group’s appeal’ –Shefiff, Ladipo
From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
As the Supreme Court resumes sitting today over the leadership crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party led by Ali Modu Sheriff (as Chairman), Prof. Wale Oladipo (as Secretary) said the Makarfi Committee, having been declared illegal by the February 17, 2017 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, lacked the powers to take decisions for the party, including initiating court proceedings in its name.
The sacked National Caretaker Committee of the party led by Ahmed Makarfi in an appeal marked: SC/133/2017 before the Supreme Court is challenging the judgement of the court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division which declared the Senator Sheriff-led National Executive Committee as the authentic leadership of the party.
But in a written arguments in support of an application filed on March 21, 2017 seeking the striking out of the appeal, the Senator Sheriff-led NEC of the party said having been sacked by the Court of Appeal, the Makarfi Committee, lacked the powers to take decisions for the party, including initiating court proceedings in its name.
The written addresss was filed on May 10 in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directive on May 4, 2017. The PDP leadership is contending that the Makarfi Committee did not obtain the necessary authorisation of the PDP to appeal in its name and on its behalf, because the PDP under the current leadership, was comfortable with the Appeal Court judgment and did not intent to challenge it.
It further contented, in the address written by a group of lawyers led by Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), that since the Court of Appeal, in its February 17 judgment, declared that Sheriff-led NEC as the authentic leadership organ of the PDP, the Makarfi-led Committee could no longer pursue an appeal in the name of the party.
The Sheriff-led PDP leadership argued that the decision of the Makarfi committee to file an appeal in the name of the PDP without its (the party’s) authorisation was not only illegal butviolated the party’s constitution.
Relying on the provisions of Chapter 5, Articles 35(1), 36(1) and 42(1) of the PDP constitution, it argued that the party, with a corporate personality, could only act through the principal national officer, whose powers and functions are stated in the constitution.
It referred to a May 18, 2016 judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital territory (FCT) in suit No: FCT/HC/CV/1443/2016, ordering a return to status quo as at May 18, 2016 and the subsequent judgment of the Federal High Court in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/464/2016, to the effect that only the Sheriff NEC could instruct lawyers for the party, and urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal.
The Sheriff-led PDP leadership noted that it has not by its argument said the Makarfi Committee cannot appeal the May 17 judgment of the Appeal Court, having been parties in the case from the trial court, it (the Makarfi Committee) or its members could only appeal as interested parties after first, obtaining the court’s leave to so appeal.
In a counter argument, the Makarfi Committee, represented by a group of lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), wants the court to discountenance the Sheriff NEC’s arguments and proceed to hear its appeal, in which it among others, urged the Supreme Court to set aside the Appeal Court judgment of February 17.
In its reply argument dated May 15, 2017, the Makarfi Committee queried the legitimacy of the application filed by the Sheriff-led NEC and argued that it was not only strange, but intended to frustrate the hearing of the main appeal.
It argued that it was wrong for Sheriff and others, who had briefed Akin Olujinmi (SAN) to represent them in the substantive appeal and had filed a respondents’ brief, in which they also made similar arguments in relation to the competence of the appeal, cannot again, brief Fagbemi to ask the court not to hear the appeal but to strike it out.
Relying on Order 8 Rule 6 (1), (2) and (4) of the Supreme Court’s Rules, the Makarfi Committee faulted the March 15, 2017 letter of the Sheriff-led NEC applying to withdraw the appeal and the subsequent application for its strike out. It argued that since the appeal was not filed by Sheriff and others, they lacked the right to apply to withdraw it.
The Makarfi-Committee argued that it was still a valid body with the power to file the appeal despite the Appeal Court judgment of February 17, 2017, because it was a creation of PDP’s highest decision making body, the National Convention, which disbanded the Sheriff-led NEC and preplaced it with the national Caretaker Committee.
In a response on point of law, filed by Fagbemi on May 18, the Sheriff-led NEC faulted all legal arguments by the Makarfi Committee, urged the court to discountenance its contention and hold that it lacked the locus standi to file an appeal in the name of the PDP, having been sacked by a subsisting judgment.
Meanwhile it was learnt yesterday that the Supreme Court has rescheduled the hearing of the appeal relating to the PDP leadership dispute for today (May 22).
The court had, on the last date, May 4, 2017 ordered the filing of the written briefs and adjourned to May 25 for hearing. It could not be ascertained yesterday what informed the court’s decision to bring the date forward.