PDP: Battling With Judicial Inconsistencies | Independent Newspapers Limited
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PDP: Battling With Judicial Inconsistencies

Posted: Aug 21, 2016 at 4:23 am   /   by   /   comments (0)




Since the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost power in 2015, the party has been enmeshed in leadership crisis. Attempts made by party elders and leaders to resolve the differences and reposition the former ruling party ahead of the forthcoming general elections have been hampered by conflicting judicial rulings.

Just as the party was preparing for its national convention slated for Port Harcourt, Rivers State on August 17, two conflicting judgments from courts of same rank were delivered thereby putting leaders and stakeholders in confusion. While one judgment gave the party the nod to go ahead with the planned convention, the other one suspended the convention.

Delivering on the judgment that gave the party the go ahead to hold the convention in Port Harcourt, Justice Ibrahim Watila affirmed the July 4, 2016 judgment of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, saying that the May 21, 2016 National Convention which produced the national caretaker committee has not been appealed against or set aside. The judge further said that it behooves the court to protect that judgment. Justice Watila therefore asked Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor the convention.

While the party leaders and members were jubilating that it had overcome every obstacle against the holding of the convention, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja came with a contrary judgment.

Justice Okon Abang, who was visibly irked by the action of Makarfi-led group in securing the order from Port-Harcourt, blasted them for attempting to frustrate the proceedings before his court.

He chastised Senator Ben Obi, member of the caretaker committee who was the plaintiff in the suit upon which the Port Harcourt Division of the high court made the ex-parte order that Okayed the planned national convention of the party.

He said: “I want to point out that a court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot make an order that will neutralise the proceedings of this court. The Port Harcourt Division of this court cannot make an order to neutralise the proceedings of this court.” Consequently, the judge said he was minded to grant an interim injunction against the convention in exercise of his disciplinary powers.

Reacting to judicial conflicts against PDP, Goddy Uwazuruike, president Aka Ikenga described the situation as an embarrassment to the judiciary. He expressed confidence that the intervention of National Judicial Commission (NJC) would solve the problem.

He said: “By the time the NJC would intervene in the matter, we would know who is right or wrong among the judges. I wonder how a court in Abuja would sit to deliberate on the matter in Port Harcourt.”

According to Uwazuruike, by stopping the convention, the judge has already answered the prayer of the litigant. I don’t know why the judge would fix another date for hearing of the matter when he has already granted the prayer of the litigant.”

Uwazuruike who recounted the experience of All Peoples Congress (APP) at the early stage of the return to democracy when the party was to hold one of its conventions but a judge cancelled the convention until the NJC intervened and reversed the ruling, thereby leaving  the judge to himself, predicted similar experience in the conflicting judgments against PDP.

Other lawyers have expressed their views on the matter. For instance, an Abuja based lawyer, Barrister Kayode Ajulo, said some persons may have to go to jail in the drama that is playing out in the cases involving the PDP so that it would serve as a deterrent to others. He alleged an element of criminality in the matter.

He said, “I sense criminality in the way the political parties are going about these things. The Nigerian Bar Association and the National Judicial Council should intervene in this matter”, he said.

Also, a Lagos lawyer, Jitti Ogunye blamed lawyers to parties in the suit for the development. He said, “Unfortunately, this is happening because of the ethical decay in the profession which is sadly being promoted by senior lawyers. Since these lawyers are the ones that control the Nigeria Bar Association, they cannot be questioned.

He said, “I think the solution is that judges should be more involved in cases before them and they should ask questions where necessary without becoming partisan.”

Ogunye, however, noted that the development does not have serious implication for the judiciary because most of the judges are only doing their job.

He said the law makes provision for consolidation of cases and when lawyers refused to do this the judge cannot force them. “In this Modu-Sheriff and Makarfi case, we have not been told that the lawyers tried to consolidate the cases. So, judges cannot begin to offer advice to lawyers on how to conduct their cases.

Another Lagos lawyer, Wale Ogunade blamed the development on both politicians and their counsels. According to him, “I think the blame should be laid at the doorstep of politicians and lawyers because most of these judgments are obtained by withholding some facts that would have helped the court to reach a sound decision”, he said.

He further maintained that until lawyers are sanctioned for unethical practices, the situation would continue.

On his part, another constitutional lawyer, Ade Oyebanji said, however, that there was no cause for alarm since there are other superior courts that will look at the judgements.

He said, “I don’t think we should worry ourselves with this development because that is the reason why we have other courts like the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to right the wrongs committed by the lower courts.

“I also think that the best way to solve the problem is for the Chief Justice of Nigeria to make clear guidelines for judges to follow in situations like this and when a judge is found to have contravened the guidelines, they should be punished immediately. Same thing is applicable to lawyers”.

Chief Ebenezer Babatope, member of the party’s Board of Trustee (BoT) and former minister of transport who believes that some judges are collaborating with the ruling party to cripple PDP promised that the party would deal with such judges when the party gets to power in 2019. We have identified about six of them who are collaborating to cripple the party, by the time we take over power in 2019, the party would deal with them. He said, “Don’t be deceived by the propagandas of the ruling party, PDP is coming back to power in 2019.”