The Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, Thursday, declared Ali Sheriff the authentic National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Mr. Sheriff had gone to the Appeal Court to challenge the judgment of Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, delivered on July 4, 2016, which upheld the appointment of Ahmed Makarfi as the Chairman, PDP National Caretaker Committee.
The Appeal Court, in a split decision, ruled that it was illegal to replace the Sheriff-led National Working Committee with the Makarfi-led caretaker committee.
Two out of the three-member panel of justices sided with the pro-Sheriff judgment, while the other ruled in favour of Mr. Makarfi’s faction.
Justice B.G. Sanga, who delivered the lead judgment, said that the PDP failed to follow the provisions of its constitution when it opted to remove Mr. Sheriff and the national working committee.
The judge said the party didn’t pass a vote of no confidence on Mr. Sheriff and his committee as provided by the Article 47(3) of the party constitution, and that the national working committee was not put on notice.
Justice Sanga held that it was an “error” for the lower court presided over by Justice Liman to rule that the appellant, Mr. Sheriff, abused the court process when he postponed the PDP National Convention that was scheduled to take place on May 21, 2016, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The Appeal Court awarded N100,000 cost in favour of Mr. Sheriff.
Another of the Appeal Court judges, Justice A. A. Gumel, dismissed as being incompetent, the preliminary objection filed by the PDP against the suit.
Justice Gumel held that Mr. Sheriff and his executive cannot be removed until August 2017, except the party holds an election.
Justice T.S. Orji-Abadua, who gave a dissenting judgment, held that Mr. Sherriff was only appointed in an acting capacity, pending election.
Justice Orji-Abadua further held that going by Article 33(3) of the PDP Constitution, Mr. Sheriff didn’t have an overriding power against the PDP National Executive Council, and therefore had no right to unilaterally cancel the convention.
She also held that Article 47 of the party constitution did not make it mandatory for it to pass a vote of no confidence before removing its officers.
Mr. Sheriff and Mr. Makarfi, former governors of Borno and Kaduna states respectively, have been engaged in a prolonged leadership tussle which has factionalised the party and caused many of its leaders to decamp to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Meanwhile, Mr. Makarfi’s faction, in its reaction to the Court of Appeal judgment, Port Harcourt, accused the APC of manipulating the victory for Mr. Sheriff.
The faction, through its PDP Twitter account @OfficialPDPNig, said, “The Judgment has finally shown that the ruling Party, the APC is out to create a one-party state in the country.”
“The Party is proceeding immediately to the Supreme Court to file an appeal against the ruling of today’s appeal court judgment,” it said.