The Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Friday declared Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as authentic Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
A three-man panel of the appellate court delivered the verdict on the leadership tussle rocking the party.
Sheriff and former Governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarffi, are both laying claim to the party chairmanship position.
Makarfi was appointed the Chairman of the PDP National Caretaker Committee at last year’s botched national convention of the party held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The court described the process that led to the emergence of Markafi as an abuse of the court process.
Two out of the three member-panel, Justice B.G Sanga and Justice A.B Gumel, in their judgment said the convention disobeyed the court order and the court would not close its eyes on such illegality.
They thus upheld the judgment of Justice Ibrahim Buba and set side the judgment of Justice Muhammed Liman of Port Harcourt Federal High Court Delivering the lead judgment, Sanga said that PDP convention of 21 May 2016, did not follow the provisions of Article 47(3) of its Constitution in the removal of the Sherrif-led National Working Committee.
According to him, 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 the appellant committed abuse of court process by postponing the PDP convention. On his part, Justice Gumel, who is also the Presiding Judge of the court, stated 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 borne 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). Meanwhile, the third member of the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt, Justice T.S. Orji-Abadua, upheld Justice Mohammed 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 to 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 further 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.
Meanwhile lawyer to PDP, Oladeji Laminkanra SAN told correspondents that his client will go to Supreme court to appeal the judgement.
Akso counsel to Sheriff’s faction of the PDP, Prince Ajibola Oloyede, described the appellate court verdict as “all round victory for justice and truth.”
Ali-Modu Sheriff said in his reaction: “I will engineer a restructuring of the PDP such that characters like Wike and Fayose cannot find a way through to attain any position of prominence in our party in the future.
“They 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.
“We must urgently steer the ship of PDP clear off the path of infamy which Wike and Fayose have brought to our party, making Nigerians to mistake PDP as a training ground for thugs. That is the urgent task we have. We cannot continue to advertise thug brand and expect Nigerians to take us seriously”.
Senator Makarfi who was toppled by the ruling accused the ruling APC of masterminding the judgment to impose a single party regime in the country.
“Two out of the 3 man Justices of the Appeal Court gave a scanty judgment in favour of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff while one for Makarfi,” he said.
“The Judgment has finally shown that the ruling Party, the APC is out to create a one party state in the country.
“The Party is proceeding immediately to the Supreme Court to file an appeal against the ruling of today’s appeal court judgment.”