*Says â€˜Caretaker committeeâ€™ a contraption
By Wahan Akanji
The crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has taken a new turn as Senator Ali Modu Sheriff has told the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt that he remains the partyâ€™s chairman.
He described the â€œCaretaker Committeeâ€ headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi as a group of â€œusurpersâ€ and a â€œcontraptionâ€ that was set up in defiance of valid court orders.
According to certified court processes made available to reporters in Lagos through his lawyer, Ajibola Oluyede, Sheriff is praying the court to hold that only he can preside over a convention or meeting where party leaders could be chosen.
PDP sued Sherriff, Prof Adewale Oladipo (who was PDP National Secretary), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Department of State Services (DSS) before Justice I. Liman.
The judge had restrained Sherriff and Oladipo from parading themselves as the chairman, Secretary or members of the National Executive Committee or National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP until the suit is determined.
But, Sheriff and Oladipo, in a motion on notice dated May 27, said those who sued them in PDPâ€™s name lack â€œthe authority and locusâ€ to institute the suit on the partyâ€™s behalf.
They are also praying the court to discharge the ex-parte order restraining them from holding their office.
According to them, Justice Liman made the order on May 24, which is 12 days after Justice Ibrahim Buba of the courtâ€™s Lagos Division had restrained the party from conducting elections into offices of national chairman, national secretary and national auditor.
Sheriff and Oladipo are praying the court to hold that by a community reading of the Section 223 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 33(1) (a) and 35(1) of the PDP Constitution, only they are empowered to chair and preside over the partyâ€™s convention and all meetings through which available national offices can be filled.
They said â€œthe illegal contraption they call â€˜caretaker committeeâ€™â€ was set up in violation of three different orders made by different judges of the court in suits numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/1443/2016, FHC/L/CS/613/2016 and FHC/L/CS/637/2016.
â€œThe so-called caretaker committee or any other person acting under its authority is an aberration under the PDP Constitution and was constituted in breach of the mandatory provisions of Section 223 and 224 of the 1999 Constitution and has no capacity to institute this action in the name of the PDP,â€ said Sheriff and Oladipo.
They urged the court to dismiss the suit filed against them for being an abuse of court process.
â€œIn our humble submission, in view of the fact that persons behind the institution of this action were appointed in defiance of valid orders of this honourable court, this action is tainted with illegality and it is trite that no cause of action can be founded on illegality,â€ they said.
According to them, PDP is a corporate entity and can only be â€œinvokedâ€ by the National Executive Committee, of which they (Sheriff and Oladipo) are principal officers.
â€œIn the instant case, however, it is clear that this action cannot be for the corporate interest of the PDP when the officers of the National Executive Committee are being sued as defendants in this action, by which the usurpers are seeking to validate their illegitimate claim to power.
“This suit cannot, therefore, be sustained in the name of the PDP…We humbly urge this honourable court to reject the plan of these lawless individuals to cause confusion and thereby benefit from their illegality, by dismissing this action,â€ they prayed.
According to Sheriff and Oladipo, the PDP NWC, which is still under their control, did not instruct anyone to file the action on the partyâ€™s behalf.
They said only the NWC is responsible for the day to day administration of the PDP and has the authority to institute or instruct anyone to file a suit in the partyâ€™s name.
â€œThe NWC of the PDP did not authorise or delegate the authority to institute this instant suit.
â€œIn a desperate bid to confer authority upon themselves, to invoke the corporate personality of the PDP, the individuals, namely Senators Ahmed Makarfi and Ben Obi, who instituted this instant action in the name of the PDP committed several illegalities in order to establish the illegal contraption they call the â€˜caretaker committeeâ€™, which they believe entitles them to invoke the corporate personality of the PDP,â€ they said.
They accused the plaintiffs of â€œconspiratorial and criminal contempt of the court by devising means of defeating the purpose and intendment of the interlocutory injunction made by Justice Ibrahim Buba.â€
But, the party instead appointed the caretaker committee in Port Harcourt.
Sheriff and Oladipo are praying the court to dismiss the suit for being an â€œillegalityâ€ and vacate all order made.