Another major blow hit the Kawu Baraje-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday.
It failed in its attempt to get its national secretariat re-opened as a Lagos High Court in Ikeja declined its prayer. The office was sealed off at the weekend on “order from above”.
Mr. Justice Ganiyu Safari declined to order the re-opening of the secretariat, rejecting the oral application by Mr Robert Emukpaero, the counsel to the faction.
The judge ordered the claimants to file a different application joining the Inspector General of Police (IGP) as defendant.
Baraje and four others sued the Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-led PDP to court, pleading with it to restrain him and his co-defendants from parading themselves as PDP National Working Committee (NWC) members.
Other claimants in the suit are Dr Sam Jaja and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
Joined as defendants alongside Tukur are Mr Uche Secondus, Deputy National Chairman; Dr Kema Chikwe, Women Leader and Mr Olisa Metuh, National Publicity Secretary.
At the resumed hearing of the matter, Emukpaero accused Tukur and others of using the police to seal off the faction’s secretariat.
Emukpaeruo said the defendants violated the court’s previous order to maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the suit.
He urged the court to order the police to remove their Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) from the secretariat and allow his clients access to their offices.
But the defence counsel, Ajibola Oluyede, urged the court to dismiss the claim as a “mere say” and that which cannot be relied upon by the court.
“The police is a statutory organisation that has discretionary powers that cannot be usurped by any one; even the court,” he argued. He said only the police could respond to the application.
Oluyede accused the claimant of breaching the court’s orders that all parties should maintain the status quo.
“After the order, they began to establish an office; they are the ones to be dragged for committal for contempt and we intend to do that in due course by making formal application before the court,” he added.
Oluyede told the court that the claimants had continued to address themselves as national officers of the PDP, in spite of the order of the court that they maintain the status quo.
Mr. Justice Safari held that there was no evidence linking the defendants to the closure of the secretariat.
The judge said while the defendants were high ranking members of the PDP, they had no powers to order the police to seal off the secretariat or deploy security agents in the area.
He, however reiterated his previous order that both parties should maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the matter.
He adjourned the matter till September 17 for hearing of the preliminary objection filed by the defendants.
There was a mild drama over legal representation for the defendants among three lawyers.
After Oluyede who was in court at the last hearing, 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, Prince Uche Secondus; the Woman Leader, Mrs. Kema Chikwe and the Publicity Secretary, Olisah Metuh.
Oluyede said he had Tukur’s instructions to represent him and others.
Igwe and Etiaba also displayed letters from the PDP’s national legal adviser, instructing them to represent the defendants.
Mr. Justice Safari resolved the controversy in favour of Oluyede, who was counsel on record and who had filed processes in court in fulfilment of the requirement of Order 48 of the Lagos High Court rules.
In a statement, by its National Publicity Secretary, the Baraje group urged Inspector General of Police, M.D. Abubakar, to immediately unseal its National Secretariat in Abuja and allow it to operate unhindered.
“Today, the High Court in Lagos once again ruled on the legitimacy of the PDP under the leadership of Baraje and maintained that the status quo be maintained until the determination of the motion on notice.”
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