PDP governors reject Sheriff …as Appeal Court sacks Makarfi

Sheriff, Makarfi

Governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vowed yesterday to have nothing to do with Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff moments after the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt reinstated  him as the rightful chairman of the party.

The party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) led by Senator Walid Jibrin is similarly not disposed to doing business with the former Borno State governor as  party chair.

The Appeal Court, by a split decision, yesterday dismissed Senator Ahmed Makarfi as chairman of the caretaker committee of the Peoples Democratic Party and nullified the party’s  national convention in Port Harcourt that established the caretaker committee.

The process that led to the  creation of the caretaker committee ,it said, was   an abuse of court process.

Senator Sheriff was restored as the rightful national chairman of the party.

Reaction  from the PDP Governors Forum to the court verdict was swift in coming.

Its chairman and ardent opponent of Sheriff,Governor Ayodele Fayose   Reacting  on behalf of the PDP governors in Abuja, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State said the judgement was an assault on  the will of the people.

“If the people truly symbolize what a party is, then the machinations of ýdetractors and the anti-democratic forces will not prevail at last”, Fayose said.

ýThe governors however commended the minority judgement on the issue and expressed the hope that truth would prevail.

“Thank God we have another opportunity to seek justice at the Supreme Court, which I believe will not be delayed or denied.

“The party will appeal the judgement as we believe in the ability of the judiciary to do justice”.

On his part,Jibrin said the party was making high level consultations over the judgment and that the various organs of the party would come out with a statement on Tuesday.

“This judgement is not a threat but rather it is going to put us together. I appeal strongly to every member of the PDP to remain calm, not to panic, ýnot to move to any other party as all efforts are on to ensure that PDP remains strong.

“Those who are crying today will laugh; those who are disturbed and worried will smile”, Jibrin declared.

The BoT chair expressed the hope that the matter would soon be resolved by the party

But Sheriff, flushed by the verdict, vowed to restructure the party “such that characters like Wike and Fayose cannot find a way through to attain any position of prominence in our party in the future.”

He was referring to Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State both of whom initially backed his ambition to lead the party  only to back out a few hours to the commencement of the  botched Port Harcourt convention.

The two governors, he said in his first reaction to the court’s ruling,  ” have brought shame and agony through the application of their crude and godless politics which is at variance with the principles upon which our founding fathers built our great party. We must find a way to sieve things so that only men of character and integrity can come through for positions of responsibility at all levels of our political engagement in the country.”

Makarfi in  his own reaction at a press conference in Kaduna described the court  ruling as a temporary setback.

He said the PDP  would overcome the set back politically and legally and would come out of it strongerý and bigger.

“We have utmost respect for the judiciary. So we are not going to take the laws into our hands. We might not agree with the judgement but there is a process and procedure if you did not agree with something,” he said.

Counsel to his faction of the party,Mr.Oladeji Lamikanra (SAN) said his clients would head to the Supreme Court on the issue.

Two out of the three members of the  Appeal Court panel  – Justices B.G Sanga and A.B Gumel –  said the Port Harcourt  convention where Makarfi was picked as caretaker committee chairman of the party was in contravention of a court order and the court would not close its eyes to such illegality.

They thus upheld the judgment of Justice Ibrahim Buba and set aside the  judgment of Justice Muhammed Liman of Port Harcourt Federal High Court  which had pronounced the convention as legal.

Sanga who read the lead judgement said that PDP convention of 21 May 2016, did not follow the provisions of Article 47(3) of the party’s  constitution in the removal of the Sherrif-led National Working Committee.

For instance, he said  no vote of confidence was passed on Sheriff or the committee as provided by the said article, and the national working committee was not put on notice.

He stated that Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, held in error when he said that the appellant committed abuse of court process by postponing the PDP convention.

Justice Gumel, who is also the Presiding Judge of the court aligned with Sanga.

He said that the preliminary objection filed by the PDP was incompetent.

He held that Sheriff and his executive could not be removed until August, 2017, except the party held an election.

Gumel described the originating summons in the suit at the Federal High Court as over-reaching, and ordered the parties to maintain the status quo.

The judges said that the convention disobeyed a court order and that the court would not close its eye to such illegality.

They upheld the judgment of Justice Mohammed Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, and set aside the judgment of Justice Mohammed Liman of Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, which upheld the convention and its outcome.

The court awarded N100, 000 to Sheriff, to be paid by the nullified national caretaker committee’s Chairman, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, the PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Inspector-General of Police and Department of State Service (DSS).

However, Justice T.S. Orji-Abadua, in his dissenting rulingt, upheld Justice Liman’s judgment, saying that the Port Harcourt convention was legal.

According to her, the PDP national convention was in line with the 2012 amended Constitution of the party and not an abuse of court process.

The judge held that Ali Amodu Sheriff had no powers to cancel the party’s national convention.

She said that Sheriff was only appointed in an acting capacity, pending election.

Justice Orji-Abadua said “going by Article 33(3) of the PDP Constitution, Sheriff does not possess overriding powers over the PDP National Executive Council and therefore, had no right to unilaterally cancel the May 21, 2016, convention.

She said that Sheriff erroneously and unwittingly absented himself from the May 21 convention after being screened, which prompted the party to invoke Article 31(1) of its Constitution and set up a caretaker committee.

She also held that Article 47 did not make it mandatory for the PDP to pass a vote of confidence before removing its officers and therefore, upheld the outcome of the convention and the caretaker committee.

Orji-Abadua stated that Sheriff had no powers to cancel PDP national convention.

She awarded a cost of N100, 000 against Sheriff.

Speaking to reporters later,counsel to the Makarfi faction, Mr. Laminkanra (SAN)  said his client would  go to Supreme court to appeal  the judgement.

Ali-Modu Sheriff said in his   reaction that he will “urgently steer the ship of PDP clear of the path of infamy which Wike and Fayose has brought our party.

“ That is the urgent task we have. We cannot continue to advertise thug brand and expect Nigerians to take us seriously”.

Senator Makarfi ,speaking in Kaduna said: “as an individual, I cannot decide for the party until the party stakeholders meet and take a definite decision.

“The party will meet on Monday to take a decision of the Court of Appeal Judgement. Every person concerned has been notified. The governors, members of the National Assembly, members of the Board of trustees and Party officials.”

He asked  party members to remain calm.

He added: “We will not allow opposition to be killed. We must strive to ensure that we survive for the sake of democracy and the country. ”

Asked whether the  Sheriff faction would allow him to use the PDP national Secretariat on Monday,Makarfi said  he is not in a position to tell the world what Sheriff will do.

But he said he would  be surprised if security agencies will allow him Sheriff access to the party secretariat.

“When a court ruled in our favour sometime ago, we were not allowed to occupy the secretariat. So, we are going to see what happens this time around” he said.

Counsel to Sheriff,Prince Ajibola Oluyede said ysetrday’s judgement is a vindication of an earlier ruling of Justice Abang of the Federal High Court  on the illegality of the Makarfi faction.

He said: “Our preliminary objection raised before Liman J. which he rejected has now been upheld by the court of appeal and Liman J.’s judgment set aside in a unanimous decision.

”It is an all round victory for justice and truth.

“One can only hope that the PDP will take this as a clean slate to rebuild a party that can stand the test of time.”

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, asked PDP members and supporters not to worry over the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, on the lingering party leadership tussle.

Ekweremadu stated this while reacting to the Court judgment which declared Ali Modu Shariff authentic chairman of the PDP.

Ekweremadu said,”There is no cause for alarm. The party leadership will meet as soon as possible to take a decision on the best way forward.

“I enjoin party faithful to remain steadfast as we will surely emerge stronger from the present challenges. Those dreaming about the death of the opposition in Nigeria will have to sleep much longer, and still wake up to meet us much stronger because a vibrant opposition is the beauty of democracy”.

Former Aviation Minister Femi Fani- Kayode said on his Twitter handle that  ”It’s time for us to gut the PDP, leave its carcass for Sheriff and form a new party.”

He also tweeted :”The decision by the Court of Appeal in PH to recognise Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the Nat. Chairman of the PDP is a victory for @MBuhari.”

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