• Police deny sealing convention venue
  • Fayose: I was under ‘house arrest’ in PH
  • Abuja court affirms Sheriff’s ouster
  • APC denies involvement in legal tussle

Tobi Soniyi, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday defied attempts by the police and the Department of State Service (DSS) to scuttle its national convention, as delegates relocated to the state secretariat of the party in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to hold the convention.
The police had sealed off the Sharks Stadium venue of the convention and barred delegates from gaining access to the venue.

But at the state secretariat of the party at Aba Road, the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, declared the convention open.
The convention approved the extension of the tenure of the caretaker committee led by Makarfi by 12 months and also increased its membership from seven to 13 through a motion moved by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and seconded by a former Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Zainab Maina.

The Chairman of the National Convention Planning Committee and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, pushed for the extension of the caretaker committee, which was unanimously approved.
The convention had earlier adopted a motion moved by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Leo Ogor, and seconded by the Chairman of the Federal Capital Territory chapter of the PDP, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman, to amend the agenda of the convention and step down the issue of election.

Markarfi, addressing the convention after the extension of his committee’s tenure, assured the delegates that his committee would effectively position the party for 2019 and would organise another convention within the period.
Markarfi had earlier inaugurated the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party.
Performing the inauguration at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Makarfi said the NEC included the PDP governors, National Assembly Caucus, Board of Trustees (BoT), National Caucus, the 36 state PDP chairmen and national officers of the party.

He said in the absence of the elected national officers, the National Caretaker Committee members would be part of NEC, adding that his committee members would cease to be NEC members once national officers are elected.
At the meeting were the PDP governors, National Assembly Caucus, members of the PDP BoT, National Caucus, 36 state PDP chairmen and National Caretaker Committee members of the party.

Also explaining why it did not conduct elections into its national offices despite its earlier insistence that the convention would hold, the Publicity Secretary of the caretaker committee, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, said the party did not want to create an atmosphere of chaos, so it opted for the extension of the tenure of the caretaker committee in place of elections.

He said some leaders of the party had mooted the idea of relocating to another venue to conduct the elections, but it was resolved that security operatives could still come to disrupt the exercise.
Adeyeye said the decision to extend the tenure of the caretaker committee also addressed the lacuna that could have arisen if the convention had not held.

“The party inaugurated the new NEC today and it met and decided to go ahead with our national convention. The convention relocated to the secretariat of the party in Rivers State.

“The place was big enough to accommodate all the delegates of the party and other leaders of the party. The convention took some decisions that the tenure of the caretaker committee be extended by 12 months and be expanded from seven to 13. Its members are not to contest for any elective office of the party,” he said.

He said the security operatives ignored an interlocutory order from a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt to provide security for the convention, choosing to respect the Abuja High court order.

Adeyeye was of the view that the security operatives should also have complied with another High Court judgment in Abuja that held that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was not the chairman of the party.

He, however, expressed confidence that the party would come out stronger from the crisis.
“Thank God we had our convention and within the next 12 months everything will be settled. The Federal High Court in Port Harcourt made very sensitive pronouncements that the convention should go ahead but they were ignored by security agencies. We have a judgment of court delivered by Justice Mohammad Liman that gave legality to our convention,” he said.

Police Deny Sealing off Stadium

As early as 6 a.m. wednesday, the police and operatives of the DSS had moved vans, armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles to barricade all access to the Sharks Stadium in Port Harcourt.

At its entrance, stern-looking armed security personnel barred delegates, journalists and even security personnel from entering the stadium.

Even policemen who had on Tuesday evening assisted members of the party to arrange the venue turned hostile and threatened to deal with their “friends” of the day before.

Curiously, the police denied sealing off the Sharks Stadium. Addressing journalists even when the stadium was shut to the public, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Francis Odesanya, said the police did not seal off the stadium.
Odesanya said the police was only acting in compliance with a court order to provide security for the safety of lives and property.

When asked which of the court orders he was complying with, he simply said: “We are only obeying a court order. It is not my duty to interpret court orders. You people are journalists and you got the court orders too. You are in a position to interpret the orders.”

He also refused to reveal when the police got the order to seal off the venue of the convention, as the same police had said on Tuesday night that it was yet to get the order.

He said: “Our actions are in line with the court order. It is not relevant when we got to the venue. The police have been there; we are always everywhere. We are always providing security everywhere. That is our primary assignment, to make sure that everywhere within the state is secure.

“The police did not seal off anywhere. We are merely providing security and ensuring that there is peace, security and order.”

He also said the reporters were not in any position to speak for and/or on behalf of the PDP delegates who could not gain entry into the venue of the convention.

“Journalists are not delegates and you cannot speak for delegates. You are journalists and you are not accredited,” he said.

Fayose Under ‘House Arrest’

In another development, Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose, wednesday cried out that he was placed under “house arrest” by the police while in Port Harcourt.

The governor, who was not sighted at any venue in Port Harcourt, lamented that he was not at the convention because he was placed under “house arrest” at the old Presidential Lodge, Rivers State Government House where he lodged.
Fayose, who spoke through his media aide, Mr. Lere Olayinka, said he was prevented from moving out, as the gate to the old Presidential Lodge was blocked by an armoured personnel carrier (APC).

He said all entreaties to allow Fayose to step out to attend the convention were rebuffed by the security personnel at the lodge.
But reacting to the allegations, the state Commissioner of Police Odesanya said it was unfair to make such allegations against the police.

He stated that there were other dignitaries lodged at the same venue and wondered how it was possible for others to have left the lodge while Fayose could not.
“That cannot be true. It is not to my knowledge. How did the other excellencies (governors) get out of the lodge?” he queried.

Fayose, in another statement by yet another aide, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, also said that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) wanted PDP dead because the former does not want a virile opposition to challenge its obnoxious policies and inability to tackle the problems confronting the country.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, Fayose said such a development would not be in the best interest of the country and Nigerians at large.

He said a virile opposition was a vital ingredient for democracy and necessary to make democracy thrive.
Fayose said the cordoning off of the Sharks Stadium by the police on the orders of the Inspector General of Police (IG) had the input of the APC-led federal government, observing that the police only acted out the script written by the APC-led government.

“I witnessed what the police did early today in Port Harcourt, it is most unfortunate. It has shown that we are indeed in perilous times in the country.

“The APC is desperate to kill the opposition and silence others because they are afraid that their inability to properly govern the country and tackle the challenges facing us as a nation would be exposed by a virile PDP.
“The Buhari government is dictatorial. There is tension everywhere. All sectors are down and they are focusing on killing the opposition. What business has APC with PDP internal matters?

“If they said they wanted to act on court orders, why didn’t they act on more than four orders that were in favour of the Markafi group? They don’t have answers to the terrible situation in the country but they know that an organised PDP will be emboldened to challenge them,” he said.

The governor wondered what would have happened if the PDP acted like the APC and refused to hand over to the APC last year.

Fayose said it was unfortunate that Senator Sheriff had turned himself to an instrument in the hands of the APC to destabilise the PDP.

He appealed to PDP members from across the country who came to the convention not to feel discouraged, saying the truth would prevail in the long run.

Abuja Court Affirms Sheriff’s Ouster

However, as the PDP licked its wounds over the absence of elections at its convention, some relief might have come its way, when Justice Nwamaka Ogbonna of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in no uncertain terms told Senator Sherrif that he is illegally parading himself as the chairman of the PDP.

The court told Sheriff to stop parading himself as chairman and to stop acting on behalf of the party as chairman.
The suit seeking declaration on Sheriff’s status was instituted by a contestant to the position of the youth leader at yesterday’ convention, Danladi Ayuba, while the sole defendant was Sheriff.

When the case was mentioned, no counsel appeared for Sheriff. The plaintiff however presented to court the proof of service of the court process on Sheriff.

In her judgment, Justice Ogbonna said based on the judgment of Justice Valentine Ashi of the same court on June 26, 2016, which upheld Sheriff’s ouster and had not been appealed against at the Court of Appeal, all actions taken since June 26th were a nullity.

“There is no evidence that the judgment of Ashi J. has been appealed against. Therefore the judgment, which is a declarative one, must be obeyed.

“Anything done contrary to the judgment of Ashi J. delivered on June 26th is null and void and of no effect. The judgment of Ashi J. having not been appealed against subsists and is binding,” the judge held.

In the suit, which was heard two days ago, the plaintiff asked the court to decide among others whether having regard to the binding and subsisting judgment of Justice Valentine Ashi delivered on June 26 which nullified the purported amendment of the provisions of Article 47(6) of the constitution of the PDP by which the defendant was claiming entitlement to the post of the national chairman of the PDP, the defendant could legally continue to parade himself as the national chairman, act or do anything in the name or on behalf of the PDP.

The plaintiff also asked the court to declare that the judgment of Justice Valentine Ashi was binding, valid and subsisting.

Sheriff Declares Convention Illegal

However, a defiant Sheriff wednesday described the convention of the PDP as illegal, null and void, adding that the meeting breached Section 31 of the PDP constitution.
In a statement issued by Sheriff’s media aide, Mr. Inua Buala, the former Borno governor also described as illegal the extension of the tenure of the Makarfi-led caretaker committee.
The section provides that it is only the national chairman who can convene a NEC, after giving two weeks notice to INEC.

“Even in an emergency situation, one week notice must be given to the national chairman, who has the sole responsibility to convene the NEC.

“It is sad that in the face of obvious disregard for court orders, which halted the convention, some individuals are bent on perpetrating impunity by taking steps to install another contraption on the PDP,” he said.
Sheriff observed that the rule of law and constitutionality must prevail in all circumstances, as such “whatever decisions arrived at, are not binding and cannot stand in law”.

APC Denies Involvement in Legal Tussle

Meanwhile, Mr. Olisaemeka Akamukale, a member of the APC BoT said yesterday that the ruling party was not behind the legal tussle in the PDP.

Akamukale, while fielding questions from reporters at the APC national secretariat in Abuja said that the ruling party had no reason to be behind the conflicting court orders and welcomed a vibrant opposition.
He said: “Ali Modu Sheriff was with us in ANPP until we formed APC. He left to PDP and was celebrated. We have no reason to be behind it.

“The problem with PDP is that they want to put money where they did not harvest. They should look for their founding fathers. It is better we have a strong opposition. We don’t need crisis in the PDP to win landslide again in 2019.
“We don’t need Ali Modu Sheriff; he contested in Borno and lost even among the grassroots. We don’t need him, that umbrella is torn.

“They should go back and form a new party, not using a wasted pipeline. It’s a lesson for APC to learn.
“They became like emperors – undemocratic principles, the rule of law was trampled upon. See the Port Harcourt saga, they just disgraced themselves.

“Nigerians need a viable opposition. For us as it stands now, APC is the only party. It is not good for Nigeria; bury the umbrella and present a formidable opposition.”

The BoT member held the view that Sheriff was not a man “to be used and dumped”.
“When they brought him, they were happy, they used his money, and now they have used him and want to dump him. The Sheriff I know will not succumb.”

He urged all those who worked to make APC a reality, but are impatient with President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointments into boards to be patient.

“I agree that people are impatient with the president and are still waiting out there to be compensated. I’m sure it would soon be addressed, but I urge that be patient.

“I do not think that it is because we do not have a BoT that we have problems. The only thing I will agree is that the BoT is the only board inaugurated to settle conflicts within the party.

“For instance, this padding issue has nothing to do with the APC so as far as I am concerned, it should be investigated. The party will not shield someone that commits a crime,” he said.