PDP defies court order, to hold convention.
The Peoples Democratic Party defied an order by an Abuja High Court on Monday as it started the screening of candidates vying for various offices as part of its national convention billed for Wednesday in Port Harcourt, River State.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday had made an interim order stopping the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the PDP from going ahead with its plan to conduct the national convention of the party.
But the National Convention Screening Committee of the PDP arrived in Port Harcourt on Monday and started the screening of the candidates.
Prominent candidates screened on Monday ahead of the convention were a former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Bode George; a former Education Minister, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; a former governoship candidate of the PDP in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje; and the Chairman of Daar Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi.
The Chairman of the Screening Committee is a former Governor of Benue State, Dr Gabriel Suswam.
The Abuja court ruling
The Abuja court on Monday had made an interim order stopping the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the PDP from going ahead with the national convention.
Justice Okon Abang ruled during the proceedings that the interim order would subsist till when the motion filed by the Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction seeking an interlocutory injunction against the convention was heard and determined.
The judge then fixed Tuesday (today) for the hearing of the Sheriff faction’s motion.
The judge made the order after joining Makarfi and six other members of his factional caretaker committee as defendants to the substantive suit which was filed on July 1, 2016, by Sheriff and members of his faction.
Apart from Makarfi, who was joined as the third defendant, others comprising Ben Obi, Odion Ugbesia, Abdul Ningi, Kabiru Usman, Dayo Adeyeye and Aisha Aliyu, were joined as the fourth to the ninth defendants.
Justice Abang overruled the lawyers for the plaintiffs (Sheriff faction) and the PDP, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN) and Olagoke Fakunle (SAN), who had both contended that Makarfi and the members of his faction were not entitled to be joined in the suit as defendants having allegedly violated the court’s past orders.
Justice Abang ruled that he could not determine if the Makarfi-led caretaker committee members had flouted his orders since they were not yet parties to the suit.
After joining the Makarfi-led caretaker committee members as defendants, Akintola urged the court to go ahead to grant an interim injunction stopping the convention in the absence of any undertaking by their (Makarfi faction) lawyer, Ustaz Usman (SAN) that no steps regarding the convention would be taken by his clients.
Akintola also informed the judge and passed to him a copy of the ex parte order obtained from the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, by a member of the Makarfi-led caretaker committee of the party, Ben Obi, on August 9, directing the convention to go on.
Akintola said the order was to prove that the newly joined parties were unwilling to stay action by awaiting Justice Abang’s decision.
However, Justice Abang, in granting the interim injunction on Monday, faulted Ben Obi’s action of allegedly secretly approaching the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court to obtain the ex parte order directing security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission to monitor the scheduled convention.
The judge ruled, “The action of Senator Ben Obi is unlawful and unfortunate.
“A court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot make an order that will neutralise the proceedings in another court of coordinate jurisdiction.
“The Port Harcourt division of this court cannot make an order to neutralise proceedings in this court.
“Any court of coordinate jurisdiction that takes delight in making ex parte order in frustrating another court of coordinating jurisdiction’s proceedings is entirely on its own.
“Assuming a counsel that filed the ex parte application advised Senator Ben Obi properly, the embarrassing situation of obtaining an ex parte order while the ruling of this court was being awaited would have been avoided,” the judge held.
He said he would have adjourned proceedings to hear the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction without making the interim order as requested by the lawyer to Makarfi and others, Yunus Usman (SAN), but for an urgent and compelling need for such an order in view of Obi’s action and the need to take care of competing interests of parties before the court.
The judge said, “Senator Ben Obi, with the greatest respect to him, is a senior and responsible citizen of this country. He cannot undermine the authority of this court. He ought to have waited for the court to deliver ruling in his application, which has now been delivered in his favour.
“Therefore, in the exercise of my disciplinary jurisdiction, where a party has taken the law into his hands, and in line with the Supreme Court decision in the case of Lagos State and Ojukwu, in the interest of justice and competing interests of parties, an order is hereby made in the interim, suspending the PDP convention slated for the August 17, 2016, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, pending when the plaintiffs’ motion on notice dated July 20, 2016 is heard and determined.”
‘Convention will go on’
However, the PDP on Monday said the party’s national convention scheduled to hold on Wednesday would go on as planned.
The Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, stated this while reacting to the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which stopped the convention.
He said, “The convention is going ahead as the Abuja Federal High Court is not superior to the Port Harcourt Federal High Court which earlier today gave us the goahead. Court of Appeal will sort it out .”
Rivers court okays PDP convention
But a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt directed the police and the Department of State Services to provide security for the PDP convention.
The court presided over by Justice Ibrahim Watila mandated the Inspector-General of Police and the Director General of the DSS to ensure security of lives at the event.
The Secretary of the PDP National Convention Planning Committee, Senator Ben Obi, had for himself and other members of the National Convention Planning Committee, approach the court to, among other reliefs, refrain the police, DSS and the Independent National Electoral Commission from interfering in the successful conduct of the national convention.
Ruling on the suit marked, FHC/PH/CS/585/2016, Justice Watila validated the holding of the PDP national convention by also ordering INEC to ensure that it monitored the event in line with the law.
The IGP, Rivers State Commissioner of Police, DSS, Director of DSS, Rivers State Command and INEC were identified as first to the fifth defendant in the application filed Senator Ben Obi.
Justice Watila adjourned the suit to August 16, 2016, for the hearing of the originating summons filed by Senator Obi.
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