By Kunle Olasanmi and Chibuzo Ukaibe, Abuja
The Supreme Court yesterday reserved judgement in the appeal filed by the national caretaker committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Ahmed Makarfi, challenging the judgement of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt division, which affirmed the Ali Modu Sheriff national executive council as the authentic leadership of the party.
During the hearing of the appeal yesterday, a five-man panel of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, dismissed the objection of the Sheriff faction seeking to stop the hearing of Makarfi’s appeal.
The apex court reserved date for the judgment after dealing with all pending applications and dismissing the preliminary objections to the appeal by the four respondents, including Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff.
While dismissing Sheriff’s objection, the court held that Makarfi’s appeal was valid since it complied with the rules of the Supreme Court.
The apex court held that an application challenging a decision of a lower court ought to have come within three months after the ruling of the lower court, which it said was complied with by the appellants.
Arguing their substantive appeal, the PDP NEC led by Sheriff (as chairman) and Prof. Wale Oladipo (as Secretary) held in their separate applications that the Makarfi led caretaker committee, having been declared illegal by the February 17, 2017 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, lacked the powers to take decisions for the party, including initiating court proceedings in its name.
Their counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Chief Akinlolu Olujimi (SAN) had in an application filed on March 21, 2017, seeking the striking out of the appeal filed on February 27, 2017 by the Markafi committee against the February 17, Appeal Court’s judgment, contended that the Makarfi committee did not obtain the necessary authorisation of the PDP to appeal in its name and on its behalf because the PDP, under the current leadership, was comfortable with the appellate court judgment and did not intend to challenge it.
Fagbemi argued that since the Court of Appeal judgment had declared Sheriff-led NEC as the authentic leadership of the PDP, the Makarfi-led committee could no longer pursue an appeal in the name of the party.
He further 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 but also violated the party’s constitution.
Relying on the provisions of Chapter 5, Articles 35(1), 36(1) and 42(1) of the PDP constitution, Fagbemi argued that the party, with a corporate personality, could only act through the principal national officer, whose powers and functions are stated in the constitution.
Fagbemi further submitted that by the judgment of the Federal High Court in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/464/2016, it is only the Sheriff NEC that could instruct lawyers for the party and urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal.
But counsel to the Makarfi Committee, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), prayed the court to discountenance the Sheriff NEC’s arguments and proceed to hear its appeal in which it, among others, urged the Supreme Court to set aside the Appeal Court judgment of February 17.
Olanipekun had queried the legitimacy of the application filed by the Sheriff-led NEC and argued that it was not only strange, but intended to frustrate the hearing of the main appeal.
He further submitted that at the Port Harcourt judgment, Makarfi’s group acted as appellant in the name of PDP, while Sheriff joined issues with the group in that capacity.
He also argued that until the Supreme Court, being the highest in the land, pronounces which of the factions is the authentic camp to lead the party, Makarfi’s faction has the right to initiate appeal.
Olanipekun however drew court’s attention to Rule 29 of the Code of Professional Ethics for Lawyers and consequently urged the court to invoke the Rule on those representing Sheriff.
After listening to all the parties, the court said it will communicate the date for judgment to the parties.
We Now Are Await Judgement – Sheriff
Following the ruling by the Supreme Court which cleared the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to appeal the judgment of the appellate court, national chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, yesterday said they were waiting for the judgment of the apex court on the leadership crisis.
National publicity secretary of the Sheriff-led PDP, Hon Bernard Mikko, in a terse response to yesterdays ruling said, “Judgement has been reserved till a later date and we can only wait. You know the case is before the court and no comment should be made”.