• Port Harcourt national convention was duly convened by NEC bias
• Party leaders warn security agencies against bias
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday told the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt that former acting National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, was validly removed by the legally constituted May 21, 2016, National Convention of the party which was held in Port Harcourt River State.
The PDP further declared that the caretaker committee of the party headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi was duly appointed in line with the constitution of the party.
The party also stated that the national convention was convened by the National Executive Committee (NEC) headed by the former National acting Chairman, Sheriff, who himself participated in pre-convention events including his participation in the screening exercise.
Making the submission on behalf of the PDP at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt presided over by Justice Abdullahi Liman, counsel to the PDP, Oladejo Laminkanra (SAN), in an originating summons, stated that: “Sheriff submitted himself for screening at the Port Harcourt national convention. Realising that he has lost his bid to be national chairman, Sheriff alone without consent and consultations with the NEC, claimed he postponed the convention. Sheriff, had no such powers to postpone a convention approved by the NEC.”
Submitting further, the PDP averred that: “Sheriff is not the chairman of PDP. He was never elected at any convention and he is subject to the extant judgment of AB Mohammed J (FCT High Court, which Sheriff is curiously seeking to enforce.
“The FCT High Court Justice AB Mohammed had in judgment of May 18, 2016, in FCT/CV/1443/2016 rejected Sheriff’s argument that he is PDP chairman until 2016.”
The PDP argued that no court stopped the party from holding its national convention. It added that the Constitution of the PDP was also never suspended, hence the national convention derived its powers from the party’s constitution.
The party stated that the interim order of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt stopping Sheriff from parading himself as PDP chairman was still subsisting.
The PDP stated: “The interim orders could not possibly lapse when Sheriff had an application asking court to set aside same order. It could not possibly lapse when Sheriff was asking the named PDP to be struck out from the suit.
“An interim order met with the applications mentioned does not lapse until 14 days after arguments are taken. That is 14 days from May 16, 2016.”
He noted that the suit was filed by the PDP and not Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Senator Ben Obi as claimed by the former acting national chairman of the party.
Earlier, Sheriff urged the court to dismiss the originating summons.
Sheriff, through his counsel, Ajibola Oluyode, filed applications asking the court to set aside the interim order directing him to stop them to parading himself as acting national chairman.
The former acting national chairman also urged the court to strike the name PDP from the suit and subsequently strike it out.
Justice Liman adjourned the matter to July 4, 2016, for judgment.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the party have asked the security agencies and others who are not directly involved in the crisis rocking the party stare clear to allow it put its house in order.
The party leaders also expressed concerns over the statement credited to Sheriff to the effect that he was going to go beyond the Inspector-General of Police in a bid to gain access into the party’s secretariat.
Rising from their meeting which ended in the early hours of yesterday, the leaders said the party was “on course to finding lasting solution to its challenges.”
Speaking shortly after the meeting, the Chairman of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, Makarfi, said the party was confident that justice will be done to the matters in court, adding that security agencies should always be on the side of what is right.
“We are calling upon security agencies especially that at this period of our nascent democracy with all the difficulties we are having in this country, peace must be allowed to reign. Any illegal action by any party member, no matter how highly placed, must be checkmated.
“And those elements that may be interfering in our internal affairs, whether they belong to any particular party or they do not belong to any at all, they should allow us to be, as we are not interfering in any other body’s affairs,” he said.
On the allegation that Sheriff might be working for agents of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Makarfi said: “We have it on record that Sheriff a day or two before he forced himself into the secretariat had a meeting with one of the governors with the party in power and then the next day this event took place. Therefore, it creates suspicion. If he claimed to be chairman of PDP, what meeting could he be having with the governor.”
Makarfi further spoke of the concerns of party leaders over bringing of thugs by Sheriff to help him to take control of the secretariat.
“We reviewed all that have been going on in the party, especially since Monday. You are all witnesses to the thuggery that took place. Actually, those who remember how Boko Haram was born that is how it started.
“How thugs were brought into Abuja and some people force themselves into the secretariat, in the process documents and some property belonging to be party cannot be accounted for. This cannot be without some supports from some quarters, definitely not from PDP
Also speaking on the outcome of PDP meeting, the Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, said the party condemned the interference and strategic efforts to destroy PDP in Nigeria.
“But we need to put it very clearly that Nigeria as a country needs an opposition party to make the average Nigerians get the values for their votes. And any attempt to destroy opposition in Nigeria is not going to be in the interest of democracy. “We stand as a party to condemned interference, scuttle and strategic effort to destroy PDP in Nigeria.
“We want to make it very clear that international community, well meaning Nigerians must take note that the Party PDP, we are prepared to give credible opposition to government in power, that have so far achieve nothing in the space of one year of assumption.
“What I want to make it expressly clear that the efforts of PDP to put its house in order is our business and we are doing everything possible and want to appeal to the security agencies to please do us a favour and operate within the arm bite of law and allow the PDP to put its house in order,” he said.
On whether the claim by Sheriff that he was begged by the governors to become chairman, Fayose said he supported him but later found him wanting and opted out.
“Without doubt, I did not beg him but I supported his coming. And when you act within ambits of time the information you have at a given time, I am not someone that will say I did not support sheriff. But when you want to marry a woman, on the wedding day they tell you that the woman has HIV, will you still remain in the marriage? I am out of it,” he said.
Meanwhile, there was a theatre of the absurd at the Wadata Plaza headquarters of the PDP yesterday as the rival groups loyal to Makarfi and Sheriff clashed with each side brandishing dangerous weapons like machete.