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Anxiety As Appeal Court Decides PDP’s Fate, Today

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The Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt is due to deliver its judgment today, which will lay the lingering Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national leadership tussle to rest. The tussle is between two factions, led by former Kaduna State Governor, Ahmed Makarfi and former Borno State Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff .
As the Appeal court is set to deliver judgment today, there is tension as to which of the warring factions the ruling would favour.
Two separate Federal High Courts in Abuja and Port- Harcourt of the same coordinate jurisdiction had given conflicting judgments regarding who the authentic chairman of the party is. While Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja ruled that Sheriff was the authentic national chairman, the Federal High Court in Port -Harcourt ruled that Makarfi was the rightful chairman.
But on December 16, 2016, the Appeal Court in Abuja adjourned indefinitely a separate hearing in the leadership tussle. It did it to await the outcome of a related case pending before the Port-Harcourt Division of the Court. The adjournment was sequel to a motion filed by the Sheriff faction which urged it to temporarily hands off the suit filed by the Makarfi’s faction.
For a party that had ruled for over 16 years, PDP has had its fair share of prolonged internal crisis, but the ongoing leadership tussle between the Makarfi-led national caretaker committee and Sheriff’s faction of the party is one, observers say may be the final nail on the coffin of the party. Since the last convention, held on May 21, 2016, in Port- Harcourt, the party has been polarised into two camps, with each faction proclaiming itself as the authentic one.
The Makarfi caretaker committee is a creation of the national convention, the highest organ of the party, and the other is led by Sheriff whose national working committee was dissolved in Port- Harcourt. But Sheriff believes that the purported dissolution did not follow due process.
Critical observers argue that even though majority of the stakeholders in the embattled party including members of the Board of Trustees(BOT), all current governors and virtually all members of the National Assembly are with the Markafi’s faction, Sheriff is confident that legally, there is still a window for him to determine how and when the crisis will end.
The party’s legal quagmire began at the Federal High Court in Lagos where Sheriff, Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju and Prof. Wale Oladipo, as plaintiffs prayed the court for an interlocutory injunction restraining the PDP from conducting any election to the offices of the national chairman, national secretary and national auditor, which they occupied, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit. This was before the national convention which was slated to hold on May 21, 2015.
The trial judge, Ibrahim Buba, granted their prayers, but the planned convention went ahead with Sheriff in attendance.
Notwithstanding protests from other prominent party members against his emergence as acting chairman, Sheriff, who was initially backed by the PDP Governors’ Forum, a powerful bloc within the party, ironically, sanctioned the May 21, 2016 convention with optimism about his possible confirmation for another two years.
But that did not happen. Instead, the stakeholders wanted Sheriff to step aside. But he saw it as an ambush. And he quickly called off the convention. But others went ahead, and it was the convention that produced Makarfi.
Twenty-four hours after the  national convention, precisely on Sunday, May 22, 2016, heavily armed policemen took over the national headquarters of the PDP when news filtered in that Sheriff and his supporters would storm the place to continue to lay claim to the office. Five police vehicles, comprising two trucks and two pick up vans blocked access on both ends of the street directly in front of the secretariat. The Makarfi faction did not occupy the PDP facility for long as Sheriff and his supporters later forced themselves into the national secretariat, making the caretaker committee and his group to move temporarily to a hotel.
On May 23, Sheriff filed a motion on notice in the Federal High Court, Lagos, for the purpose of setting aside the national convention of the party held on May 21 where he hoped to emerge as chairman. On May 24, counsel to Sherriff and other plaintiffs, Mr. R. A. Oluyede, told the court that the PDP had flouted the order dated May 12, 2016, as it had gone ahead to conduct elections into the offices of: national chairman, national secretary and national auditor. Thereafter, Justice Buba declared the caretaker committee illegal.
But the caretaker committee insisted that elections were not conducted during the convention and that it did not fill the three posts in line with the court orders, as there was no order against setting up a caretaker committee. While Buba in Lagos affirmed the interim chairmanship of Sheriff, another Federal High Court sitting in Port- Harcourt ordered him and the NWC to stop parading themselves as leaders of the party.
On June 29, Justice Valentiine Ashi of Court 29 Abuja, nullified the 2014 amendment of the PDP constitution on the grounds that it did not comply with Section 66(2)(3) of its constitution, by not serving the National Secretary with a written copy of the proposed amendment two months before the convention, which the Secretary was also required to circulate among secretaries of the party a month before the convention. Ironically, it was the same provision; the party had relied on to appoint Sheriff, as chairman, in the first instance.
Article 47, paragraph 6 of the amended constitution states: “in case of any vacancy, the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) can appoint an Acting Chairman from the area or zone where the last occupant of the office comes from, pending when election is conducted, to reflect that where there is vacancy, the acting chairman shall serve the tenure of the officer who left before the expiration of the tenure.”
This ruling was a major blow to Sheriff whose emergence in the first place was predicated on the 2014 amended constitution of the party. But Sheriff rejected the ruling, stating that he had not yet joined the party when the amendment was made, and as such, does not affect his position as chairman.
The legal conundrum continued when on July 28, a Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja nullified the Markafi-led caretaker committee. Justice Okon Abang, who ruled in Sheriff’s favour, held that the convention held on May 21, 2016, was a nullity.
Delivering his ruling, he said: “the Lagos Division made orders on May 12 and 20, forbidding the PDP from removing the Sheriff-led Caretaker Committee. That order is still subsisting. The convention was unlawfully held and the Caretaker Committee was unlawfully and illegally appointed and could not take any legal decision for the PDP in view of the subsisting order of the Lagos Division of this court. If the Markafi-led Caretaker Committee, as apostles of impunity, missed their way to the Port- Harcourt division of this court, that court could not have conveniently assumed jurisdiction to set aside the earlier decision of the Lagos Division. I hold that the Port Harcourt division of this court cannot make an order to neutralise the potency of the Lagos Division of this court dated 12 and 20 May”.
On August 17, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja reaffirmed Sheriff’s removal. The court, which was presided over by Justice Nwamaka Ogbonnaya, reaffirmed the sack on the ground that the judgment of Justice Ashi, which nullified his appointment on June 29, has not been set aside or vacated and was therefore subsisting.
Before the national convention which held on May 21, where Makarfi was appointed Care-taker chairman, Sheriff had planned to reduce the influence of the BoT members, many of who were opposed to his emergence. In order to achieve that, Sheriff began moves to checkmate that organ of the party, by proposing an amendment to the party’s constitution, where he added a clause that the body would need to consult him before it could call for any meeting.
According to the party’s constitution, the BoT, of which the national chairman is a member, does not need only the chairman’s permission to hold its meeting. It is a statutory organ of the party with powers to act as its conscience, and it needed two-third of its members to agree for a meeting to be called. But in the proposed amendment, which was meant to be discussed at the meeting of the party’s NEC which took place before May 21, Sheriff wanted a clause to be added to the constitution, so that he would have to be the only one who would be consulted before the BoT of the party could meet.
Whichever way the pendulum swings, there is the likelihood of the aggrieved party proceeding to the apex court.
If that happens, it means the party crisis is far from being over.

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PH Law School Campus’ll Be Best, Chiroma Confirms

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Director General, Nigerian Law School, Prof Isa Hayatu Chiroma, has expressed optimism that the new Port Harcourt campus of the institution would be the best in the country.
Chiroma made the assertion when he paid a working visit to inspect ongoing civil construction work at the Nabo Bekinbo Graham-Douglas Campus of the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The director general was accompanied the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to assess progress of work at both the Nabo Graham Douglas Campus, Rumueme and staff quarters at New Government Residential Area, Port Harcourt.
He expressed gratitude to the state government for the intervention to build and deliver the Port Harcourt campus in order to help address the challenge of inadequate lecture and accommodation space for the ever-increasing number of students seeking to acquire vocational legal training at the current campuses of the Nigerian Law School in the country.
“The last time we were here was when the ground-breaking ceremony took place, and today, there is massive construction going on, and there is progress. I want to thank the governor and the good people of Rivers State for this progress.”
Chiroma, who observed that the teeming rainy season in Rivers State has slowed down the pace of work, noted that the amazing aspect of the project is that the quality of materials used for the raft foundation at the Nabo Bekinbo Graham-Douglas campus is world class.
“The kind of materials used with what we have seen on ground, it is unimaginable, it is excellent. I can assure you that the problem we will be having is about our students, who will prefer to be posted to this place with what I have seen.
“That is the battle we are going to be faced with. But, I can assure you that all our Law School Campus are the same, but with the development going on here, it is going to be a problem for us to decide who comes to Port Harcourt. From what I have seen it is going to be the best.”
Facilities under construction at the Port Harcourt campus will comprise 14 structures, including 1,500-capacity classroom blocks, hostel blocks, students’ multipurpose hall, 16 units’ 3-bedroom flat staff quarters with swimming pool, gymnasium and lawn tennis court.
Other facilities are, library, moot court/law clinic building, sick bay, administrative block, cafeteria and sporting facilities for students.

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Nigeria, Suffering From Leadership Failure, Wike Affirms

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that it was regrettable that 61 years after Independence, Nigeria was still grappling with leadership challenge.
The governor pointed out that because of such leadership failure, Nigeria was now at a point in its history needing God more than ever.
Wike made the assertion at the Interdenominational Church Service organised in commemoration of the 61st Independence Anniversary of Nigeria at the St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The governor stated that there was hardly anything for Nigerians to celebrate as the country marks 61st Independence anniversary because its leadership continues to entrench hatred, mediocrity, promote ethnicity and religion.
“This is the time that Nigeria needs God more. The country is gone. Insecurity everywhere! Everyone needs to say God; we need you because man’s leadership has failed this country.”
The governor noted that, perhaps, the only thing Nigerians can boast of celebrating was the existence of the name, Nigeria.
“At 61 years, Nigeria is full of enmity, full of divisions, hatred, and ethnicity: A country that cannot put itself together.
“Everybody has responsibility; so, ask yourself questions, have I done my own part?”
Wike also observed the sorry state of Nigeria, and said at 61, it was far removed from being a country that can compete favourably with prosperous countries of the world, given its abundant resources.
The governor bemoaned what has become of the nation’s Legislature that continues to approve anything for the Presidency, and not minding the consequences.
He also decried how the nation’s Judiciary has succumbed to intimidation because its judges have abandoned their responsibilities out of fear, and wondered what fate Nigerians would have under such seeming tyrannical atmosphere.
“We cannot do the right things. Other countries are talking about how their elections will be transparent; we are talking about how we will rig the election in 2023.
“Simple thing, transmit election results electronically to show transparency, that really that the person you’re declaring won the election but we are afraid.”
“Where is the Legislature? A Legislature that cannot think, a Legislature, anything they bring is right, a Legislature that cannot say that Nigeria has nothing to regret from conducting free and fair election.
“A Legislature that you’ll close your eyes, anything they bring, about borrowing, you say borrow. A Legislature that cannot say that this money we are borrowing, where is it? Where are you applying it? You have no confidence to ask questions.
“The courts have been intimidated. The judges have abandoned their responsibilities out of fear. You’re seeing something that is wrong, but because you will be summoned in the night, you abandoned your responsibility.”
Wike also blamed the woes the country has suffered on all Nigerians who have refused to do the right things, but rather allowed the wrong things to be perpetrated in all facets of the society.
He noted how ascendancy to leadership was no longer by merit but by ethnic affinity and religious consideration, even when such persons do not have the capacity required to function in such offices.
Speaking further, Wike berated the church leadership over the inordinate dressing of a young man that he saw in the church, and attributed such sight to lack of enforcement of discipline in the church.
In his sermon, Bishop of the Diocese of Niger Delta North, Rt. Rev. Wisdom Ihunwo, noted that only foolish people despise God and attribute their successes in life to personal efforts and ingenuity.
Ihunwo said such foolish people abound in Nigeria because they have hearts of corruption, treat humanity with disdain and delight in doing abominable things and divert public funds for personal use.
According to Ihunwo, it was baffling that despite having leadership over the country, there was unabated spree of killings, a seemingly thriving kidnapping business with some officers of the military killed without drastic measures taken to return Nigeria to the path of sanity.
While charging the church to rise to speak courageously against wickedness in the land, Ihunwo declared the judgement of God upon the sponsors of such killings and kidnapping that have put Nigeria in a pitiable state that its people cannot celebrate independence of the country at 61 years.
Special prayers were said at the service for God’s favour and grace upon Nigeria and its leaders, Rivers State Executive Council, Judiciary and the Legislature, for the governor and his family, as well as the church and its leaders.

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Dreams To Achieve Peace, Dev In N’Delta Achieved, FG Boasts

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The Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Col. Milland Dixon Dikio, has said that the Federal Government has achieved its dream of moving the Niger Delta from incessant protest to peace and development.
Dikio said this, last weekend, when an ex-militant, High Chief Biobopere Ajube, was conferred with a chieftaincy title in Arogbo Ijaw Ibe, Beleukoriwei (Pathfinder) by the Paramount Ruler of the kingdom, Pere Zaccheaus Doubara Ebgunu, in his palace in Arogbo, Ondo State.
According to him, the present administration has succeeded in curtailing the restiveness in the region through engagements with the ex-militants.
He assured them that government would not renege in its promises to ensure that the region and its people are developed.
Dikio called on ex-agitators to emulate the disposition of Ajube in peace and entrepreneurship.
He lauded Ajube for leading the charge for a peaceful and prosperous Niger Delta, noting that he was the face of what can happen in the region.
According to him, “with the likes of Ajube, who had undertaken the task of having 400 ex-agitators trained in his Bradama facility under the PAP’s Train, Employ and Mentor (TEM) model, the dream of moving the Niger Delta from incessant protest to peace and development is achievable.
“We’re here to tell this community and indeed the world what Ajube means to us. He is very special and we’re excited that he bought into our vision in PAP which is tailored to change the narrative in the region.
“He took the lead of our Train, Employ and Mentor initiative and has pledged to have 400 of our people trained in his facility.
“He is the face of what can happen in the region and there is no doubt that with people like him, the Niger Delta can truly be the place to live and do business”
Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who was represented by his Deputy, Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa, described Ajube as a proud son of Ondo, who had made a tremendous impact in the lives of his people.
He said the honour was a testament of all he had been doing for his people, and urged him not to relent but extend similar gestures to other parts of the state.
“We’re gathered here to celebrate a man who through self-development and engagement is where he is today. We’re proud of him as a true son of Ondo State. All he thinks about is development, peace and empowerment which is a good thing”.
Also speaking, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe said Ajube, during the height of militancy in the Niger Delta, was grossly misunderstood by the Federal Government but as head of the Amnesty Programme, he stood firmly by his side, to explain that he meant well.
He said, “This honour is well deserved. The story and struggle of the emancipation and dealing with the issues in the Niger Delta will not be complete without the mention of High Chief Bibopere Ajube. The story is deep for some of us.
“So, I’m proud that we’re gathered here to celebrate peace, excellence, leadership, strive for sustainable development, honest, and sincere man that loves his God. I know him when he had nothing. He is a man that has the interest of his people in his heart”.
The Traditional Ruler of Arogbo Ijaw Ibe, Pere Zaccheaus Doubara Ebgunu, said it was not a mistake that Ajube was honoured with the highest title, noting that the kingdom has been blessed by him and decided to display that by conferring the prestigious title on him.

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