The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, has said the Supreme Court should not hear an appeal filed by the sacked National Caretaker Committee of the party led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
Although, hearing in the appeal is slated to take place before the Supreme Court on Monday (today), the Sheriff-leadership of the party has asked the apex court to strike out the appeal, marked SC/133/2017.
The Makarfi-faction filed the appeal on February 27, 2017 against the February 17, 2017 judgment of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal which sacked their caretaker committee.
But Sheriff, as the National Chairman of the party, and Prof. Wale Oladipo (as the Secretary), prayed for the striking out of the appeal in their written argument accompanying an application which they filed on March 21, 2017.
The written submission was filed on May 10, 2017, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directive made during the proceedings of May 4, 2017.
The applicants argued that having been declared illegal by the February 17, 2017 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, Makarfi and members of the sacked committee lacked the powers to take decisions for the party, including initiating court proceedings in its name.
Sheriff and Oladipo maintained that the PDP, under the current leadership, was comfortable with the judgment of the Court of Appeal and did not intent to challenge it.
Their retinue of lawyers, led by Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), who filed the court processes on their behalf, argued that since the Court of Appeal, in its February 17, 2017 judgment, declared the Sheriff-led National Working Committee as the authentic leadership organ of the PDP, the Makarfi-led committee could no longer pursue an appeal in the name of the party.
The Sheriff-led PDP leadership argued that the decision of the Makarfi committee to file an appeal in the name of the PDP without its (the party’s) authorisation was not only illegal, it violated the party’s constitution.
They cited the provisions of Chapter 5, Articles 35(1), 36(1) and 42(1) of the PDP constitution to back their position.
They stated, “The decision of the Port Harcourt division of the Court of Appeal cited above (that nullified the ‘National Convention’ of the 21/5/2016, as well as the appointment of the ‘National Caretaker Committee’) and the order made therein for status quo as of May 18, 2016, judgment of Justice Mohammad in Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/1443/20l6, to be reverted to by parties, are still valid and subsisting, and as such, are not only binding on the parties and their privies, but also on the courts including the Supreme Court.
“In the circumstances, we humbly urge that these orders be given effect by recognising that only the National Executive Committee of the PDP, as represented by its National Chairman (Sheriff), National Secretary (Oladipo) and National Legal Adviser can act for the PDP to prosecute this appeal and to instruct counsel to act on behalf of the PDP.”
The Sheriff-led PDP leadership noted that it had not, by its argument, said the Makarfi Committee could not appeal the May 17 judgment of the Appeal Court, having been parties in the case from the trial court, it (the Makarfi Committee) or its members could only appeal as interested parties after first obtaining the court’s leave to so appeal.
In a counter-argument, the Makarfi committee’s group of lawyers, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the court to discountenance the Sheriff leadership’s arguments and proceed to hear its appeal.
In its reply of argument, dated May 15, 2017, the Makarfi committee queried the legitimacy of the application filed by the Sheriff-leadership and argued that it was not only strange, but intended to frustrate the hearing of the main appeal.
It argued that it was wrong for Sheriff and others, who had briefed Akin Olujinmi (SAN) to represent them in the substantive appeal and had filed a respondents’ brief, in which they also made similar arguments in relation to the competence of the appeal, to go ahead to brief Fagbemi to ask the court not to hear the appeal but to strike it out.
Relying on Order 8 Rule 6 (1), (2) and (4) of the Supreme Court’s Rules, the Makarfi faction faulted the March 15, 2017 letter of the Sheriff-led NEC, applying to withdraw the appeal and the subsequent application for it to be struck out.
It argued that since the appeal was not filed by Sheriff and others, they lacked the right to apply to withdraw it.
In a response on point of law, filed by Fagbemi on May 18, the Sheriff-led NEC faulted all legal arguments by the Makarfi committee, urging the court to discountenance its contention and hold that it lacked the locus standi to file an appeal in the name of the PDP having been sacked by a subsisting judgment.
We pray God will touch the hearts of rebels —Sheriff group
Meanwhile, the Deputy Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, said the party was praying that God should touch the hearts of those he described as the rebels.
Ojougboh stated, “We believe God; you know the God of justice does not lie. We believe that the Supreme Court is actually supreme and that it will do the right thing. Our prayer is that the rebels’ camp, let God touch them (rebels) to know that this PDP, we need to put it together for all so that Nigeria can get out of difficulties because Nigerians are waiting for us.
“The need for a proper opposition cannot be overemphasised with the situation we find ourselves in this country.’’
Sheriff’s supporters are being misled, says Makarfi’s faction
But a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Abdullahi Jalo, who is a member of the Makarfi-led group, said members of the Sheriff-led PDP were being deceived.
Jalo said this in response to Ojougboh’s comments in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday.
He stated, “As for Cairo and those on the other side – I will refrain from calling them rebels even though that is what they are – we urge them to retrace their steps and return home.
“They must know that no matter how far one goes in the wrong direction, the right thing to do is (to) retrace your steps in the right path as soon as you realise your mistake.
“I know those of them on the other side are being deceived and misled.
“Our expectation from the court is simple, justice. We expect the court to give us justice because we feel justice was not served at the Court of Appeal.”