Court declines to unseal Baraje-led PDP office
• Splinter group gets national officers
• 20 party’s state chairmen affirm confidence in Jonathan, Tukur
• Atiku decries closure, wants IG to take action
• Obuah seeks expulsion of Amaechi, Kwankwanso, others
• Gov’s associates allege plot to remove him from office
• Oyinlola faces probe, loyalists suspended
AN Ikeja High Court, Lagos Monday declined to order the reopening of the secretariat of the Alhaji Kawu Baraje-led group of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) sealed off by the police at the weekend.
The trial judge, Justice Ganiyu Safari, rather directed the claimants to file a different application joining the Inspector- General of Police (IGP) as a defendant.
The Baraje-led PDP through its counsel, Robert Emukpoeruo, urged the court to make an order unsealing the party’s secretariat in Abuja.
In his oral application, the counsel argued that despite the court’s ruling that parties maintain the status quo ante on the suit seeking to stop the Dr. Bamanga Tukur-led faction from further functioning as officers of the party, the office was sealed off at the orders of the defendants.
According to him, the police on Saturday sealed off the claimants’ office despite filing their processes in court, thereby resorting to self-help and questioning the integrity of the court.
Citing the case of the Supreme Court’s decision in Lagos State governor v. Ojukwu, 1986, Emukpoeruo urged the court to order that the police remove the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) stationed at the claimants’ office as the apex court has said that when a matter is in court no party should do anything to pre-empt the court.
But in his response, the defence counsel, Ajibola Oluyede, dismissed the claimants’ claim as what could not be relied upon by the court.
He argued that the claimants did not file any affidavit and documentary evidence to support their claim, saying it was a mere emotional outburst that was of no use to the court.
Oluyede also argued that the claimants had admitted that their office was closed by the police and that the assumption that it was carried out on the orders of the defendants was not valid.
He said: “The police are a statutory organisation that has discretionary powers that cannot be usurped by any one, not even the court.”
The counsel therefore urged the court to disregard the submission of the claimants as it was only the police that could tell the court what prompted them to seal off the office.
“They are the only proper respondents, unfortunately, they are not here and they are not parties to this case.
“It is actually the claimant, who is in breach of the court orders. There was a national convention where national officers were elected and this group of rebels went to the press and announced themselves in a coup d’etat.
“After the order, they began to establish an office. They are the ones to be sued for committal for contempt and we intend to do that in due course by making formal application before the court,” he added.
Meanwhile, a pro-Amaechi group, Rivers People’s Forum, yesterday alleged a plot to illegally remove him as governor through what it claimed was the “Alamieyeseigha treatment.”
According to Oluyede, the claimants have continued to address themselves as national officers of the PDP, which they are not by their own admission despite the pending order that parties maintain status quo ante. He urged the court to desist from presiding over that kind of application.
In his ruling, Justice Safari said there was no proof that Tukur or other defendants ordered the police to seal off the claimants’ office and therefore dismissed the application.
The court also fixed September 17 for the hearing of the defendants’ application in which they questioned the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.
Earlier in the proceeding, a mild drama ensued over legal representation for the defendants among three lawyers.
While Oluyede had announced his appearance as counsel to the defendants, Boniface Igwe from Gadzama Chambers announced his appearance for Tukur and other defendants.
Another lawyer, Emeka Etiaba, also announced appearance for the Deputy Chairman, Uche Secondus, the Woman Leader Mrs. Kema Chikwe, and the Publicity Secretary, Olisah Metuh.
While Oluyede argued that he had the instructions of Tukur to represent him and others, which prompted him to file some processes in court, Igwe and Etiaba displayed letters from the PDP’s national legal adviser instructing them to represent the defendants.
But Justice Safari resolved the controversy in favour of Oluyede on the grounds that other lawyers, who had also filed processes in court, had not fulfilled the requirement of Order 48 of the Lagos High Court rules.
Baraje, Sam Sam Jaja, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and the PDP as plaintiffs had in a motion on notice brought pursuant to Order 39 of the Lagos High Court asked the court to restrain the defendants from parading themselves as members of the National Executive of the PDP.
Besides, the Baraje-led group of the PDP yesterday ratified the election of its national officers.
A statement issued by the National Secretary, Oyinlola, named the party’s NWC members as Baraje (Chairman); Jaja (Deputy National Chairman); Oyinlola (National Secretary); and Maode Umar Hiliya (Deputy National Secretary).
Others are Mr. Timi Frank (National Youth Leader); Binta Koje (National Woman Leader); Malam Nasir Issa (National Organising Secretary); Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze (National Publicity Secretary); Aliu Wadada (National Financial Secretary); and Malam Tanko Isiaku Gomna (National Treasurer).
The statement added that “the position of National Auditor and that of National Legal Adviser which are zoned to the South-East and South-West respectfully, will be announced soon.”
Meanwhile, chairmen of state chapters of the PDP rose from a meeting yesterday declaring “undisputed support and loyalty” to President Goodluck Jonathan and Tukur.
The state PDP leaders, 20 of whom were at the Wadata Plaza national secretariat of the party, yesterday also expressed dismay about alleged violation of “due process” in the manner in which grievances were being expressed by people in the party.
But Tukur declared that the crisis rocking the party was not beyond resolution.
Reading a statement of the meeting at a press conference at the PDP national secretariat yesterday, chairman of the Conference of PDP State Chairmen, Emmanuel Agbo, who is also chairman of PDP chapter in Benue State, declared that as a group, all chapters of PDP would resist any attempt to disrupt the smooth running of the party.
The party leaders equally urged members to remain firm in support of Jonathan’s transformation agenda, adding that the agenda would take the party to 2015 and beyond.
PDP chairmen of the following states were present at the meeting: Benue, Ekiti, Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Oyo, Cross River, Adamawa, Yobe, Kogi, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Nasarawa, Ondo, Lagos, Gombe, Ogun, Osun and Plateau. The chairman of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was also present.
States not represented were Kano, Sokoto, Kwara, Niger, Jigawa, Abia, Enugu, Eboyin, Imo, Anambra, Taraba, Kebbi, Borno, Bauchi, Delta, Edo and Bayelsa.
But two leaders of the party in Kaduna yesterday declared their loyalty to Baraje, saying that it was time for Nigeria to return to the practice of true democracy devoid of dictatorship.
The former Kaduna State PDP Chairman, Alhaji Audi Yero Makama and a former legislator in the state House of Assembly, Mr. Gideon Yakubu Marik, issued a statement to pledge the support of many party loyalists in the state to the Baraje-led New PDP, saying that “the political tsunami that was unleashed on the nation with the emergence of a new leadership to pilot the affairs of our great party is meant to change the face of politics and bring about true democracy.”
Makama, who pledged to mobilise support for the New PDP in Kaduna, pointed out that “the revolutionary decision to sack the erstwhile leadership under Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and replace it with the current one led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje needs to be replicated in all state chapters of the party, especially Kaduna State where the support base of the party has been shrinking since 2007 when Alhaji Namadi Sambo became governor and decided to rubbish the party and its supporters.”
Meanwhile, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday condemned the sealing off of the splinter group’s office.
A statement from the former vice president stated that Atiku asked the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, to instruct his officers to vacate the party’s headquarters immediately.
Atiku declared that the “police invasion” of the party’s office had no justification in law, but was rather borne out of a desperate bid to exercise political control.
The party’s crisis worsened in Osun yesterday as the state chapter suspended members loyal to Baraje.
The suspension came barely 48 hours after Oyinlola addressed a rally and his supporters from the 30 local councils in the state at his Okuku country home on Sunday.
Oyinlola had commended the well-attended rally for disregarding an alleged directive from some quarters asking members to shun the Okuku rally.
The suspension order was contained in a statement by the state chairman, Alhaji Ganiyu Olaoluwa, who said the leadership could not tolerate members flirting with the new faction.
The statement said the party had commenced investigations into the case of Oyinlola and would soon make its finding known to the public.
Those facing suspension according to the statement are Alhaji Ademola Rasaq (a.k.a. Landero), the former chairman who resigned voluntarily shortly after Oyinlola lost at the Appeal Court, Chief Yinka Adeojo; former secretary and member of a Federal Board, Mr. Soji Adagunodo Oluwatukesi; member of a Federal Board, Alhaji Rasaq Oyetunji; Mr. Ibukun Fadipe, Alhaji Akomola, former chairman of Osogbo Local Council, Teslim Igbalaiye; Dapo Ayodele and Bowade Oyewale Afolabi.
Also suspended are three ward chairmen in Ayedaade Local Council Wards five, six and eight, who were advised not to parade themselves as ward chairmen again.
Others on the suspension list are three governorship aspirants allegedly attending meetings of the new PDP.
The party also gave three of its four governorship aspirants, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, Senator Olasunkanmi Akinlabi and Wole Oke 24 hours to dissociate themselves from the new group or face the wrath of the party.
Olaoluwa said it was disheartening to know that with the governorship polls approaching, those who are supposed to be working assiduously to regain Osun State were fraternising with a dissident group.
The statement took a swipe at members of federal boards fraternising with the new group, saying that the party had begun a process of replacing them with loyal party members.