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PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY v. SENATOR ALI MODU SHERRIF & ORS

(2017) LPELR-42736(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Wednesday, the 12th day of July, 2017

SC.133/2017


Before Their Lordships

WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

IBRAHIM TANKO MUHAMMAD Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

MUSA DATTIJO MUHAMMAD Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY - Appellant(s)

AND

1. SENATOR ALI MODU SHERRIF
2. PROFESSOR ADEWALE OLADIPO
(Sued as themselves and as representing the National Officers, the members of both the National Executive Committee and the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party removed by the National Convention of the Party held at Port Harcourt on 21st May, 2016)
3. THE INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION
4. THE INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE
5. STATE SECURITY SERVICE
(Also known as the Department of State Security) - Respondent(s)


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This is an appeal bordering on Electoral Matters.
FACTS:
This is an appeal from the majority decision of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division coram: Gumel, JCA, Sanga, JCA. Orji-Abadua, JCA (dissenting) in which the decision of a Port Harcourt, Federal High Court, was upset on appeal.

The facts are that general elections were held in Nigeria in 2015. The P.D.P. lost the Presidential elections, while the A.P.C. won. Thereafter the Chairman of the P.D.P., Alhaji Adamu Muazu left the Office of Chairman of the Party abruptly. So the Party appointed Senator Ali Modu Sherrif, the 1st respondent, as the acting National Chairman while Professor Adewale Oladipo, the 2nd respondent, remained the party's National Secretary. In the year 2016 the 1st respondent, a member of the National Executive Committee and other members issued a Notice for the National Convention of the P.D.P. to be held in Port Harcourt on 21st, May 2016. The 1st respondent signified his intention to contest for the office of National Chairman of the P.D.P. by submitting himself for screening. The screening exercise for aspirants into elective offices was held a day before the National Convention. That was on 20th May 2016. The 1st respondent failed the screening exercise. The Screening Committee issued a report dated 20th May, 2016 on the 1st respondent. It reads: 

"SENATOR ALI MODU SHERIFF

The candidate is contesting for the office of the National Chairman. He submitted a half-filled nomination form without supporting documents. He had no tax clearance certificates for three years. He also had neither the P.D.P. membership card nor voter's card. We found nothing in the nomination form he submitted without other relevant documents as to find him qualified to contest for the office of the National Chairman of the P.D.P. He is accordingly disqualified from contesting for the election."



On being aware of this development, the 1st respondent purported to cancel the National Convention, relying on existing Court orders. This he did on 21st May, 2016. The day slated for the National Convention. The acts of the 1st respondent were ignored. The Convention went on and far reaching resolutions made. The 1st respondent was removed as Acting Chairman of the P.D.P., and a Caretaker Committee appointed to look after the affairs of the P.D.P. The P.D.P. was torn into two factions with the 1st respondent still claiming to be the Chairman of P.D.P. and the Caretaker Committee led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi. It was in this state that the appellant filed suit No: FHC/PH/CS/524/16 to put to rest once and for all the supreme nature of the National Convention of the P.D.P., and whether the 1st and 2nd respondents can override decisions made at the National Convention of the Party. Prior to and during the pendency of this suit the 1st and 2nd respondents and their allies instituted the following suits:
1. FHC/L/CS/637/2016 - Adeyanju v. I.N.E.C. & Anor.

2. FHC/L/CS/347/2016 - Adebayo Dayo & Anor v. I.N.E.C. & 3 Ors.

3. FHC/L/CS/638/2016 - Olorunoje & Anor v. I.N.E.C. & 3 Ors.

4. FHC/L/CS/605/2016 - Olemolu v. I.N.E.C. & 3 Ors.

5. FHC/L/CS/613/2016 - Ali Modu Sheriff & 2 Ors. v. I.N.E.C. & 5 Ors.

6. FHC/L/CS/636/2016 - Adebayo Dayo v. I.N.E.C. & 5 Ors.

7. FCT/HC/CV/1867/2016 - Chief Joseph Jero v. P.D.P.

8. FCT/CV/1443/2016 - Chief Emeka Dibia v. P.D.P.

9. FCT/CV/M.7017/2016 - Chief Emeka Dibia v. P.D.P. (in Re: Senator Sheriff) & 19 Ors.

10. FCT/CV/1822/2016 - Senator Ali Modu Sheriff & 18 Ors. v. P.D.P. & 7 Ors.

11. FHC/ABJ/CS/439/2016 - Chief B. Akingboye & Anor v. (1) I.N.E.C. (2) P.D.P.

12. FHC/ABJ/CS/464/2016 - Dr. Ali Modu Sheriff & 9 Ors. v. (1) I.N.E.C. (2) P.D.P.



Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/524/2016 is the suit which resulted in this appeal. The appellant's as plaintiff's filed the suit to reaffirm the supremacy of the PDP's Constitution, the sovereignty of the National Convention as the highest decision making body of the party and for the Court to declare the resolutions passed at the National Convention held in Port Harcourt on 21st May 2016 as valid. The learned trial judge agreed with the plaintiffs. His lordship Liman J resolved all the questions for determination and reliefs sought in the Originating Summons in favour of the plaintiff's. The respondents were not satisfied with the judgment. They lodged an appeal. It was heard by the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division. That Court by a majority of two to one allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court Port Harcourt Division. The 1st respondents suit No: FHC/PH/CS/524/2016 filed before the trial Court was dismissed for being an abuse of Court process. Orji-Abadua, JCA dissented.


Dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES:
Appellant and Respondent formulated 7 issues each. The apex Court however determined the appeal on the following issues:
1. Whether suit No FHC/PH/CS/524/2016 is an abuse of process.
2. Whether the National Convention of the PDP which was held on 21st May 2016 in Port Harcourt, River State was illegal.


DECISION/HELD:
The appeal was unanimously allowed. The judgment of the trial Court which was affirmed by the dissenting judgment of the Court of Appeal was affirmed by the Supreme Court. 


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