Nigerian politicians use the multiplicities of Federal High Courts to their advantage to choose which order of court to respect and which not to respect, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said Tuesday.
Jibrin Okutepu spoke on Channels News at 10 while reacting to the statement credited to a faction of Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) that it’d go ahead with its planned convention slated for Wednesday, August 17, 2016 in Port Harcourt in spite of restraining court order.
The senior lawyer said politicians in Nigeria are fond of running from one Federal High Court to the other so as to get favourable judgment that’d suit “whatever they want to do” which he said wasn’t healthy for Nigeria’s democracy.
“That’s why they say there are conflicting judgments for them to choose which to follow, and which not to obey,” Jibrin told Channels Tv.
He said the way and manner Nigerians went about treating court processes wasn’t going to augur well for due process of law, and beauty of democracy “because such actions may lead to anarchy.”
Two conflicting judgments by Port Harcourt and Abuja Federal High Courts
On the issue of two conflicting court judgments about the PDP Convention, Mr. Jibrin said, “PDP is not a party in the rulings of the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court. The party there is Senator Ben Obi on behalf of himself and the PDP Convention Planning Committee. The Port Harcourt ruling is just an order directing the police, security operatives to discharge their duties during the convention. There is no order that the convention should go on. The order of Justice Abang of the Abuja Federal High Court that the convention should not go on is the only positive court order.”
He urged Nigerian politicians to avoid creating conflicting judgments, “I’ll not encourage anyone to disobey positive order of court; in the Abuja ruling, PDP is a party to the case while Sen. Ben Obi is the party to the Port Harcourt ruling which simply directs the security agencies, INEC to discharge their duties,” the legal authority said.
“Once there is an order of court, whether rightly or wrongly, the person affected cannot choose to ignore the order. The option open to any aggrieved party is to go and Appeal and ask for stay of execution.”
Things started falling apart in the camp of the former ruling party PDP when Sen. Amodu Sheriff emerged its national chairman.
Since his emergence, court orders and counter court orders have been the trade of powerful party members who run to court to obtain favourable orders.
Justice Abang of Abuja Federal High Court insists his order must hold
Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday re-affirmed his Monday’s interim order stopping the Peoples Docratic Party from going ahead with its plan to conduct its national convention slated for Wednesday in Port Harcourt.
He turned the interim order into an interlocutory injunction that will subsist till the time the substantive suit is heard and determined by adjourning the hearing of the case till September 7, and gave a stern warning to the Chairman and Secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission, not to monitor the planned convention.
The judge faulted the decision of the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court to assume jurisdiction on the case relating to the PDP convention, directed that his order be endorsed with Form 48 (Notice of disobedience of court order) and served on the INEC chairman and secretary.
Disobedience to court order: “They must sink and float with their legal strategy,”
The judge said failure by INEC or any of the defendants to comply with his order “will attract disciplinary action” provided “the plaintiffs know what to do.”
He made the order after the plaintiffs, comprising the factional National Chairman of the PDP, Ali Modu Sheriff and others, moved their motion praying for the interlocutory order on Tuesday.
He held that the motion was not opposed as the respondents, including members of Ahmed Makarfi- led caretaker committee of the party, failed to file a counter-affidavit opposing the motion.
He said the Makarfi-led caretaker committee members who were only on Tuesday joined as the third to the ninth respondents adopted strategy of not filing counter-affidavit but other processes that were not found in the court file.
“They must sink and float with their legal strategy,” the judge ruled.
Justice Abang said the request for an adjournment by their counsel, Mr. Yunus Ustaz (SAN) and Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), asking for an adjournment after the plaintiffs’ counsel, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), had moved his motion was an afterthought. Counsel for the PDP, Mr. Olagoke Fakule (SAN) and that of INEC, Alhassan Umar, did not oppose the application.
The judge ruled, “In any case, the plaintiffs’ application is not opposed by any of the parties. The law must take its course. The facts placed before this court are unchallenged by the respondents when they had the opportunity to do so. The facts deposed to by the plaintiffs are credible.”
The judge blamed the Port Harcourt division of the Federal High Court for the conflicting orders that had so far been issued by him and from Port Harcourt.
Justice Abang said the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, having first assigned the case relating to PDP convention to him as far back as July 4, the Port Harcourt division ought to have drawn the CJ’s attention to the a case later filed with respect to the same subject matter.
INEC yet to receive Abuja court order
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has added new dimension to the retraining court order stopping the convention.
INEC said it was yet to receive the Abuja Federal High Court judgment scheduled for Wednesday in Port Harcourt, a message from INEC Deputy Director on Publicity and Voter Education, Mr. Nick Dazang, said.
The message was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).