Court nullifies South-west zonal congress I didn’t authorise any suit, says Sheriff
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has said the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will hold on May 21 as scheduled, insisting that there was no valid court order stopping the party from holding the convention.
This came as the National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, on Tuesday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that he did not authorise anybody to file a suit on his behalf.
Wike, who is also the chairman of the National Convention Planning Committee of the PDP, said he had not been served any such order.
He added that the suit before a Federal High Court in Lagos was filed by an imposter and that the national chairman of the party had written to the court informing it of the fraud.
Wike spoke during his appearance on Channels Television Sunrise Daily broadcast monitored in Port Harcourt yesterday.
He said: “There is no valid court order stopping the PDP National Convention.
The suit at the Federal High Court Lagos was filed by an imposter. As a chairman of the National Convention Planning Committee, I have not been served any court order. How can there be an order when I did not go to court?”
The governor also said the national convention of the party would hold on May 21 as scheduled because shifting the convention would be dangerous as there would be no National Working Committee (NWC) after that date.
He said the right processes have been followed and congresses held at different levels leading to the national convention.
Wike also declared that the PDP emerged stronger from the recent challenges because all leaders of the party were working to keep the party united, adding that the party stakeholders have resolved their differences by placing the survival of the party above other considerations.
“At the point we are now, we want everybody to be together to form a united opposition in the interest of the nation. When a presidential candidate emerges from the north in 2018, the Chairman of the party will come from the South,” he said.
Speaking further, the governor said: “We will no longer allow the imposition of candidates. We are encouraging every candidate to contest elections and emerge through popular votes. We will not allow impunity or imposition.”
The governor also said he has lost confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission “INEC” because the commission “is too inconsistent”, as it works to promote the interest of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State.
“I don’t have confidence in the present INEC. It is too inconsistent and acts outside the law,” he said.
The governor explained that in Rivers State, the APC has used INEC to generate tension by attempting to manipulate the electoral process for eight local government areas where INEC had already cancelled elections during the March 19 rerun elections in the state.
He said it was unfortunate that INEC had set up a committee to review already cancelled elections, saying the move would lead to avoidable crisis.
Wike recalled that the APC after the March 19 rerun elections issued statements calling for the cancellation of the elections, but pointed out that the same APC has made a u-turn by approaching the election tribunal to declare her candidates winners. He regretted that INEC has tacitly supported the APC by refusing to file defence for the declared results at the election tribunals.
The governor expressed optimism that the PDP would win the up-coming governorship election in Edo State.
“From what we have seen on ground in Edo State, this is the best time to capture the state. We have sent independent assessors to the state and they have adjudged that the PDP has the opportunity to take over Edo,” he said.
Meanwhile, Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos, yesterday declared as null and void the congress held last Saturday by the South-west zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The presiding judge of the court who held that the congress was held in defiance of a restraining order made by him on May 11, 2016, said 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.
“There is nothing like I will not obey a court order in a democratic setting,” Justice Buba declared while nullifying the PDP South-west zonal congress as prayed 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 INEC the PDP; its National Chairman and Secretary, Sheriff; and Prof. Wale Oladipo respectively.
At yesterday’s proceedings, counsel for the PDP and Sheriff, 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 circumstance 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 11 order, pending the outcome of an appeal already filed by the PDP and Sheriff.
Oke also claimed that the PDP and Sheriff 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 Sheriff 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 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 was an evidence that his clients were aware of the restraining order yet went ahead to hold the congress in defiance of the court order.
“Parties should not resort to self-help when a matter is before the court,” the judge said, in his ruling nullifying the congress.
Further proceedings were adjourned till June 8, 2016 for the hearing of all pending applications.