Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The controversy surrounding the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party took a new twist on Wednesday when an Abuja High Court sitting in Apo District of the Federal Capital Territory ordered the party’s factional Chairman, Alli Modu Sheriff, and other officers of the party to refrain from parading themselves in those capacities.
Justice Valentine Ashi of Court 29 issued an order restraining individuals “currently parading themselves as the national officers of the PDP on the basis of the purported amendment to the PDP constitution effected at a special convention held in Abuja on December 10 and 11, 2014.”
By the amendment of 2014, effected on Article Article 47 Paragraph 6 of the PDP Constitution, the party amended the provision which says in case of any vacancy, the party NEC can appoint an Acting Chairman from the area or zone where the last occupant of the office comes from “pending when election is conducted” to reflect that where there is a vacancy, the Acting Chairman shall “serve the tenure of the officer” who left before the expiration of the tenure.
Justice Ashi declared the 2014 amendment to the PDP constitution illegal on the grounds that the party did not comply with Section 66(2)(3) of its constitution by not serving the National Secretary with a written copy of the proposed amendment two months before the convention, which the Secretary was also required to circulate among state secretaries of the party a month before the convention.
The judge did not specifically mention Sheriff in his judgment, but ordered that those who became national officers of the party by virtue of the 2014 amendment to the PDP constitution, which the court has declared unlawful, should cease to parade themselves in those capacities.
The judge emphasised the need for the party to strictly adhere to the provisions of its constitution even as he held that the insertion of the clauses in section 66(2) and(3) was to deepen democracy in the party and that they constituted conditions that must be first fulfilled.
Having not fulfilled those conditions, the judge invalidated the purported emergence of Sherrif as the party’s chairman.
The judgment was in connection with a suit filed by a PDP member from Irele Local Government Area of Ondo State, Joseph Jero, against the PDP. It was marked: FCT/HC/CV/1867/2016 and had only the PDP as the sole defendant.
The plaintiff, Jero, had invoked the jurisdiction of the court to interpret sections 221(d) and 223 (1)(a) of the Nigerian Constitution, Article 47(6) of the PDP Constitution as well as section 85(3) of the Electoral Act with regard to the appointment of a caretaker or chairman of the party’s constitution.
The judge held that the process leading to the amendment of Article 47(6) of the party’s constitution did not comply with the provisions in section 66(2) and (3) of the party’s constitution.
Justice Ashi dismissed argument by lawyers to the PDP, including Okere Kingdom to the effect that the appointment of the party’s chairman was an internal affair of the party which the court should not dabble into.
Further details later