16th August, 2016
An air of uncertainty currently hangs over the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled for Wednesday in Port Harcourt as the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday insisted that the convention should not hold, until the hearing and determination of the substantive suit filed by Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff.
But Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State, the host governor, declared that the planned convention will hold as scheduled at the Port Harcourt Stadium.
The order stopping the convention was the second to be made by the court and this time, it restrained the Inspector General of the Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission from participating in the convention.
Justice Okon Abang also barred the PDP from presenting and electing candidates as National Officers of the party.
The court gave the ruling in a motion on notice filed by the factional national chairman of the party, Sen. Ali Modu Sherriff, against the convention.
Justice Abang further restrained INEC from monitoring any convention pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Furthermore, the court ordered the Inspector General of Police to enforce the order against the planned convention.
Besides, the judge directed Sheriff to obtain Form 48, so as to commit anybody or group who may disobey the order.
Abang upbraided Justice Mrs Ibrahim Watila of the Port Harcourt Division of the court for dabbling into the PDP matter in spite of the pending one in Abuja.
He said that the Port Harcourt division would have done well if it had referred the suit instituted by Sen. Ben Obi instead of assuming jurisdiction.
Apparently furious with the conflicting decisions of the two courts; Abang said the Port Harcourt division has set a stage for legal combatants to determine which legal decisions to be obeyed.
“This division is strongly with Port Harcourt on jurisdiction, but the Port Hacourt division should not have assumed jurisdiction because the Supreme Court has made it clear that when a situation like this arises, a judge should confer with the CJ.
“Let me make it clear that Port Harcourt division cannot overrule me; any party who disobeyed my decision should have himself to blame,’’ Abang warned.
He adjourned to September 7, for hearing of the substantive suit.
Despite the latest court order, Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers and chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Convention Planning Committee, said on Tuesday that its convention would hold on Wednesday as scheduled.
He told newsmen in Port Harcourt, that arrangements have been completed to hold the convention and elect new leaders for the party.
Wike also said that members of the necessary organs of the party were already in the state for the convention.
On Abuja court order suspending the convention, Wike said the Federal High Court Port Harcourt delivered judgement directing that the convention should go on.
He said the Abuja court gave an interlocutory order which did not vacate the judgement.
“ The judgment of the Federal High Court validates the judgement of July 4, 2016. We are not violating any order.
“ We stand by the judgement of the Federal High Court which has not been set aside July 4 which has not been vacated.
“ The truth of the matter is that we do not disobey court orders. We are obeying judgement of court that said go ahead with the convention. That is our position as far as this matter is concerned,” the Governor said.
Wike also described as false and untrue, that he and Gov Ayo Fayose of Ekiti state had imposed a candidate to be the new national chairman of the party.
He said delegates from the states would elect the chairman and other national officers of the party.
As the controversy over the validity of the court order rages, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is meant to witness the convention, said it was yet to receive the Federal High Court, Abuja judgment on the National Convention.
INEC Deputy Director on Publicity and Voter Education, Mr Nick Dazang, said that INEC would come up with its position on motoring of the convention, adding that its staff were on standby for further directive.
“Even though the commission has been served the Port Harcourt High Court judgment, it is yet to be served the Abuja High Court judgment by Justice Abang.
“ As soon as it (the Commission) is served the Abuja High Court judgment, it will take a decision.
“In the meantime, and following the Port Harcourt judgment, our monitoring staff are on standby,’’ Dazang said.