Verdict reserved in PDP dispute
The Supreme Court reserved judgment yesterday in the appeal filed by the sacked Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
The Makarfi Committee is challenging the February 17 judgment of the Court of Appeal (Port-Harcourt division) declaring, among others, that the Makarfi-led Committee is illegal.
Yesterday, a five-man panel of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen, took arguments from parties and informed them that judgment had been reserved till a date to be communicated.
At the commencement of argument yesterday, the court invited lawyer to the Ali Modu Sheriff leadership to move his application with which he sought the striking out of the appeal.
Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) argued that the judgment of the Court of Appeal having not been set aside, Sheriff and members of the executive committee remained the alter ego of the party and that only they could validly file any court process in the name of the party.
“In urging your Lordships to grant the application, I will say that the point here is not about the locus of counsel but about the competence of the appeal, whether it was filed with authority or not and whether or not the party in whose name the appeal was filed has a right to withdraw the appeal.
“PDP is a corporate body, therefore the corporate personality is defined in terms of the (party’s) constitution, which gives power, and the decision of the lower court that has not been set aside or suspended.
“If the party, through its directing minds, led by Ali Modu Sheriff and backed by the constitution of the party and the judgment of the Court of Appeal, have withdrawn the appeal, there is evidence that they exercised their rights and their powers rightly.
“Whoever is interested in the appeal can only come as an interested party and not to file an appeal in the name of the party,” Fagbemi said.
Lawyer to the Makarfi-led group, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the court to grant his client’s appeal, set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and also dismiss the application seeking the striking out of the appeal.
“I urge your lordships not only to dismiss this application but to do so with heavy cost.
“Apart from Rule 29 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 27(1) and (4) of the rules also demonstrate that the application is incompetent and the Supreme Court does not even have the vires to countenance it.”
Olanipekun noted that Niyi Akintola (SAN), who represented Sheriff and Oladipo against the PDP at the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal and who still represented the same clients at the Supreme Court, could not decide who should represent the PDP at the apex court.
He said: “Appeal is a continuation of hearing. The initiators of this application have shot themselves in both legs. Are they saying they were respondents to a non-competent respondent (the PDP) at the lower court? It is short of words to say it is abuse of process.”
Olanipekun prayed the court to grant his appeal and set aside the Court of Appeal’s judgment.
Lawyer to Sheriff and Prof Wale Oladipo, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), aligned with Fagbemi’s submission in relation to his application.
Olujinmi added that he had in his preliminary objection raised a similar issue of lack of authority on the part of the Makarfi committee to file the appeal.
On point of law, Fagbemi contended that Rule 29 of Rules of Professional Conduct referred to by Olanipekun “does not apply to the competence of the application seeking the striking out of the appeal.”
The court rejected the objection by Sheriff’s lawyer to the motion by the Makarfi committee seeking leave to appeal on grounds of mixed law and filed.
The court proceeded to grant the application after dismissing objection and deemed the appeal as properly filed.
Other members of the court’s panel are Justices Tanko Muhammad, Bode Rhodes-Vivour, Kayode Ariwoola and Dattiji Muhammad.
Prominent members of the party, representing both sides of the dispute were in court to witness proceedings.
Sheriff and Makarfi were in court. They sat in opposing sides of the large courtroom.
Some of those who accompanied Sheriff were the Deputy National Chairman of the faction, Cairo Ojougbo, and Oladipo.
Those who came with Makarfi included Chief Bode George, Chief Eddy Olafeso, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye and Chief Tom Ikimi.