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Saturday, 18 February 2017

PDP CRISIS: Sheriff floors Makarfi


There appears to be no end in sight to the leadership tussle rocking the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Friday declared Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, as the legally recognised Chairman of the troubled party, a ruling the Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee has vowed to appeal at the apex court.

Sheriff, who was the first appellant in the case, had challenged the judgement of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt,  Rivers State,  delivered on July 4, 2016,  by Justice Muhammed Liman, recognising the sack of the party’s national officers and appointment of Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee.
The lower court had declared that the May 21, 2016, National Convention was duly constituted, declaring that the dissolution  of the National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee by that convention  was valid.
Liman in that judgement  on the suit filed by the PDP  against Sheriff and others, declared that the appointment of  the  Caretaker  Committee  of the PDP  to oversee  the affairs was legal and in line with  the  provisions of the PDP constitution. He said Article  31 (1) of the  PDP  constitution vested the powers to convene a National Convention  on the National Executive Committee of the party.
However,  in yesterday’s judgement,  two of the judges agreed that the  party did not follow duly the processes of removal of Sheriff and other members of the national officers.  But, the female among the judges upheld the position of the party on the sack.
Justice Bitrus Sanga,  who delivered the lead judgement,  pointed out that the national officers,  who were sacked at the national convention held in Port Harcourt, on May 21, 2016,  did not follow religiously the constitution of the party,  which stipulates that a vote of no confidence must be passed against the officers.
He also stated that the two months notice as contained in a section of the party’s constitution,  was not given to the affected officers,  before they were removed from office.
Also,  Justice Sanga identified abuse of court process in the matter by the PDP,  stressing that the action the party took on May 21, 2016 at the National Convention,  was “a nullity ab initio”, adding that “the court will not close its eyes on any illegality”.
“The judgement of July 4, 2016 is hereby set aside”, he ruled  and awarded N100,000 against each of the respondents.
Similarly,  Chairman of the three-member panel of judges,  Justice Abubakar Gumel,  upheld the position of Justice Sanga,  and struck out the argument of the respondent.
He stated that the power of the national convention to remove any officer must be made sacrosanct and in line with the relevant articles of the party’s constitution.
Meanwhile,  Justice Theresa Agbadua Orji,  in her minority judgement,  said she found it difficult to agree with the analysis of the other two judges on the matter.
Justice Orji argued that contentious issue in the matter,  which was the judgement of July 4,  2016,  by the lower court,  did not constitute any abuse of court process by the respondent as alleged by the first appellant.
She maintained that the first appellant (Sheriff) actively participated in the screening of the party before he backed out,  stressing that he had no power as an individual, to cancel or postpone the national convention because he was not the party.
Also,  she described as total misconception of the first appellant to see himself as having overriding power to cancel or postpone elections,  stressing that only the party has power to take such decisions as enshrined in its constitution.
She declared: “He cannot probate and reprobate because he actively participated in the screening.  The provisions of the party are crystal clear”,  reiterating that Sheriff deliberately absconded from participating in the May 21, 2016 national convention.

…Makarfi faction rejects verdict, Ekweremadu calls for calm
The Ahmed Makarfi faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has blamed the All Progressives Congress (APC) for its loss of the party’s leadership to Ali Modu Sheriff, even as it rejected the decision of the court,  vowing to challenge it at the supreme court.
In a tweet on Friday, the PDP faction alleged that the judgment of the appeal court showed that the APC was out to create a one-party state.
In his reaction, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, enjoined the party’s faithful not to be anxious over the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, on the lingering party leadership tussle.

He said: “There is no cause for alarm. The party leadership will meet as soon as possible to take a decision on the best way forward. I enjoin party faithful to remain steadfast as we will surely emerge stronger from the present challenges. Those dreaming about the death of the opposition in Nigeria will have to sleep much longer, and still wake up to meet us much stronger because a vibrant opposition is the beauty of democracy”.

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