A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, has upheld the removal of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The court also declared that the May 21, 2016 National Convention of the PDP that sacked Sheriff as the acting chairman of the party did not go against any rule.
Delivering his judgement in a suit brought before the court by the PDP, Justice Abdullahi Liman, also said that decisions taken at the convention remained valid.
Justice Liman specifically said that the appointment of a Caretaker Committee of the PDP was in order and in line with the constitution of the party.
The PDP had, among other pleas, asked the Federal High Court to declare that the national convention was legal and decisions taken by the convention must be binding on members of the party.
The presiding judge explained that Article 31 (1) of the PDP constitution vested the powers to convene a national convention on the National Executive Committee of the party.
He added that since Sheriff, who is the first defendant in the matter, was part of the process leading to the national convention in Port Harcourt, his absence at the event proper was not enough to nullify the convention.
Liman maintained that since the then deputy chairman of the party was at the convention to take over the proceedings in the absence of Sheriff, “the national chairman cannot postpone it (convention).”
The judge added, “The principle and spirit of democracy, even in a party, vigorously abhors autocracy. In the absence of the national chairman, the deputy national chairman presided over the convention. The constitution of the party is in support of this.
“In view of this, the national convention was well convened and can exercise the authority to elect and remove national officers of the party.
“It is obvious that the dissolution of the NEC and NWC of the party was within the powers of the convention. Nothing in those decisions has violated the norm or law.”
The presiding judge, however, maintained that there was no suit challenging the conduct of the national convention in Port Harcourt, adding that no injunction was sought to stop the convention.
Speaking with newsmen after the ruling, counsel for the PDP, Mr. Dejo Lamikanra (SAN), said the judgment had settled all contentious issues concerning the PDP and its leadership.
He said with the judgement, the decision of the national convention to appoint a caretaker committee had been affirmed while Sheriff remained sacked.
Also, counsel for Sheriff, Mr. John Abu, commended the court for the judgment.
In his remark, the Secretary of the PDP Caretaker Committee, Senator Ben Obi, pointed out that Monday’s judgment by the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt had paved the way for the caretaker committee to settle down and carry out its responsibility without hindrance.
But the factional National Chairman of the PDP, Ali Modu Sheriff, has said that Federal High Court, Port Harcourt had no power to remove him from office.
He said that the Port Harcourt court and the Abuja court, including a Federal High Court in Lagos, had last week re-affirmed him as the authentic chairman of the party.
He said that the three courts were of the same competent jurisdiction and as such the judgment of one was not superior to the other.
He spoke with journalists in Abuja while reacting to the judgment which upheld his removal from office.
Sheriff said, “The court that gave judgement in Abuja last week and the Federal High Court in Lagos and today’s court in Port Harcourt are all courts of the same competent jurisdiction.
“Therefore, the orders that we have in Abuja is still subsisting.
“What it means is that unless a Court of Appeal decides otherwise, I still remain the National Chairman of the PDP. Any court that is of the same jurisdiction cannot overrule another court unless it is Court of Appeal.”
Sheriff said he disagreed with the judgment and that he had asked his lawyers to appeal it.
He said, “We disagree with today’s judgment completely. We have asked our lawyers to immediately file an appeal and also ask the same court for stay of execution because there were three orders before his own, which are of coordinate jurisdiction.
“Unless and until the Court of Appeal, which is a higher court makes a pronouncement contrary to what we have, I still remain the chairman.”
His position tallied with the statement later issued by his lawyer, Mr. Ajibola Oluyede, who said he had proceeded to the Court of Appeal to challenge the judgment on Monday.
“We advise INEC to note the above and take legal advice so that it may not find itself in contempt of the valid and subsisting orders of the Abuja Division which are direct and specific concerning the primaries of the PDP in Ondo and Edo states,” Oluyede said.
However, the Chairman of the party’s National Caretaker Committee, Ahmed Makarfi, has expressed happiness at the Port Harcourt judgment.
In a statement issued on Monday shortly after the delivery of the judgment, Makarfi asked the aggrieved group to join him in the effort to move the party forward.
Expressing mixed feelings, Makarfi said though the court judgment was good, he still felt sad that the crisis in the party took this far.
He further said that as far as he was concerned there should be no winner or loser in the matter.