Makarfi kicks as Sheriff urges court to shun appeal
Apex court hears PDP leadership tussle suit today
The leadership of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has urged the Supreme Court to shun an appeal brought before it by the party’s sacked National Caretaker Committee led by Ahmed Makarfi.
The PDP’s National Executive Committee (NEC), led by Ali Modu Sheriff (Chairman), Prof. Wale Oladipo (Secretary) said the Makarfi Committee, having been declared illegal by the February 17, 2017 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, lacked the powers to take decisions for the party, including initiating court proceedings in its name.
The PDP leadership stressed this position in a written argument it made in support of an application it filed on March 21 seeking the striking out of the appeal filed on February 27 by the Markafi Committee against the February 17 Appeal Court’s judgment. The written submission was filed on May 10 in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directive on May 4.
The PDP leadership is contending that the Makarfi Committee did not obtain the PDP’s authorisation to appeal in its name and on its behalf, because the PDP under the current leadership, was comfortable with the Appeal Court judgment and does not intent to challenge it.
It contented, in the address written by a group of lawyers, led by Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), that since the Court of Appeal, in its February 17 judgment, declared that the Sheriff-led NEC is the authentic leadership organ of the PDP, the Makarfi-led Committee could no longer pursue an appeal in the party’s name.
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.
Relying on the provisions of Chapter 5, Articles 35(1), 36(1) and 42(1) of the PDP constitution, it 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.
It referred to a May 18, 2016 judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital territory (FCT) ordering a return to status quo as at May 18, 2016 and the subsequent judgment of the Federal High Court in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/464/2016 to the effect that only the Sheriff NEC could instruct lawyers for the party, and urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal.
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 the substantive appeal, among other issues, Sheriff/PDP lawyers urged that the appeal should either be dismissed or struck out because the supposed appellants (Makarfi’s PDP) did not obtain neither the leave of the Court of Appeal nor that of the Supreme Court before filing the appeal which is based on mixed law and facts.
In a counter argument, the Makarfi Committee, represented by a group of lawyers, led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urges the court to discountenance the Sheriff NEC’s arguments and proceed to hear its appeal. It among others, urged the Supreme Court to set aside the Appeal Court’s judgment of February 17.
In its argument dated May 15, the Makarfi Committee 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.
It argued that it was wrong for Sheriff and others to ask the court not to hear the appeal after briefing Akin Olujinmi (SAN) to represent them in the substantive appeal and filling a respondents’ brief, in which they also made similar arguments in relation to the competence of the appeal.
Relying on Order 8 Rule 6 (1), (2) and (4) of the Supreme Court’s Rules, the Makarfi Committee faulted the March 15, 2017 letter of the Sheriff-led NEC applying to withdraw the appeal and the subsequent application for its strike out. It argued that since Sheriff and others did not file the appeal, 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, urged 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.
On the issue of representation, they explained that while Fagbemi and others were representing the PDP as a party, Olujinmi was leading a team for Sheriff and Oladipo, sued in their personal capacities and representing the National officers, NWC and NEC of the PDP.
The Makarfi Committee has, however filed papers, seeking to regularise their processes. But, this was done after parties had joined issues and briefs exchanged.
It was learnt yesterday that the Supreme Court had rescheduled the hearing of the appeal relating to the PDP leadership dispute for today (May 22).
The court had, on May 4, ordered the filing of the written briefs and adjourned till May 25 for hearing. It could not be ascertained yesterday what informed the court’s decision to bring the date forward.
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