PDP Leadership Crisis Deepens as Another Court Orders INEC to Recognise Candidates Presented by Sheriff

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Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

The crisis rocking the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) deepened further yesterday as a Federal High Court in Abuja restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from accepting list of candidates for the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States from any other leadership of the party except from the Ali Modu Sheriff-led National Working Committee (NWC).

In a ruling, Justice Okon Abang, also granted an order of interlocutory injunction restraining INEC, the PDP and their agents from dealing with or according any facility required by law (regarding the gubernatorial elections to be conducted by INEC in Edo and Ondo States) to any other person or groups other than the Sheriff, Prof Wale Oladipo and Fatai Adeyanju-led NWC of the party.

The judge directed INEC, the PDP and their agents to “recognise, deal with and accord all facilities required by law “ (regarding the gubernatorial elections to be conducted by INEC in Edo and Ondo States) to the Sheriff, Oladipo and Adeyanju-led NWC.

Justice Abang further directed INEC and the PDP to “reject and ignore any activity (including primary elections/congresses for the nomination of candidates of the PDP for the gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo States, purportedly conducted on behalf of the 2nd defendant (PDP) by any other persons or group of persons other than the Sheriff, Oladipo and Adeyanju-led NWC.”

The judge said the interlocutory orders are to subsist pending the determination of the substantive suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/439/2016 filed by two governorship aspirants of the PDP in Edo and Ondo States – Chief Benson Akingboye (Ondo) and Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma (Edo).

Justice Abang’s ruling was on a motion on notice for interlocutory orders pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit with INEC as 1st defendant and PDP as 2nd defendant.
Before the hearing of the motion yesterday, the judge resolved the dispute between two senior advocates – Emmanuel Ukala and Olagoke Fakunle – over who should represents the PDP in the suit. While Ukala claimed to have been briefed by the Ahmed Markafi-led faction of the party, Fakunle said he was briefed by the Sheriff faction.

In resolving the dispute between the two lawyers, the judge demonstrated his bias for the Sheriff’s faction when he noted that while a Federal High Court in Lagos in two separate orders on May 12 and May 20 recognised the leadership of Sheriff and restrained parties from proceeding with the party’s national convention in Port Harcourt, the Markafi leadership of the PDP emerged from a convention against which there was a pending order.

He pretended to be oblivious to a ruling of an Abuja High Court which voided the emergence of Sherriff having nullified the amendment to the party’s constitution upon which Sherriff was elected.
He said there was a pall of doubt about the legality of the convention from which Markafi-led Caretaker Committee emerged, while there was a subsisting order recognising the Sheriff-led NWC.

The judge consequently recognised Fakunle as the lawyer for the PDP and excused Ukala from the proceedings.
Shortly after, plaintiffs’ lawyer, Ajibola Oluyede, accompanied by Babs Akinwumi, moved the motion for interlocutory injunctions. Fakunle, who represented the PDP, said he has filed a response to the substantive suit, but that he was not objecting the granting of interlocutory injunctions in the case. Lawyer to INEC, T. M.Inuwa said he would prefer to remain neutral as his client would abide by any decision made by the court.
After listening to all the lawyers, Justice Abang granted the fourth prayers contained in the motion on notice dated June21, 2016.

He adjourned to October 25 for hearing of the substantive suit.
The plaintiffs are by the suit, asking the court among others, determine between the Sheriff led committee and the Markarfi-led committee, who the legitimate leaders of the PDP are in view of the various court orders obtained by various interests in relation to the dispute over the party’s leadership.