ABUJA — Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, failed to persuade Justice Suleiman Belgore of an Abuja High Court at Apo to vacate the order restraining it from conducting its special convention on August 31.
This was even as National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, yesterday, challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the substantive suit seeking to sack him from office.
The suit was filed by three aggrieved members of the party, Abba Yale, Yahaya Sule and Bashir Maidugu.
Despite efforts by the party to make the court grant it the go- ahead with its original plan to organise its South-West Congress and mini-convention on August 24 and 31, respectively, Justice Belgore declined to accede to the request, even as he adjourned further hearing on the case till September 23.
Meantime, a mild drama ensued immediately the matter was called up yesterday, as two lawyers argued over who was duly briefed by the plaintiffs to represent them.
Whereas Mr. Jubril Okutekpa (SAN), told the court that he was the person that not only filed the suit but had been representing the plaintiffs in the matter, another lawyer, Mr. F. N. Nwosu, told the court that the plaintiffs had, Friday, instructed him to take over the matter on their behalf.
Following a heated argument that ensued between the two lawyers, who called each other names, among which included “Jankara legal practitioner,” the court was forced to stand down the matter for 30 minutes.
Later, one of the plaintiffs, Mr. Maidugu, appeared in court and told the judge that they no longer had confidence in their former lawyer.
He said they had unanimously resolved to change their lawyer, a submission that did not go down well with Okutekpa, who insisted that they must pay for all the legal services he had offered them before he would hands off the case.
Okutekpa said: “My Lord, my investigations revealed that I have not been de-briefed. In view of Order 10 rule 40(2) of the rules of this court, read together with Rule 29(2) of Rules of Professional conduct, Mr. Nwosu cannot be allowed to appear in this matter and he should not.
“This morning, I spoke to the 3rd plaintiff and I filed a process in their name this morning.
“Though I have not spoken to the other plaintiffs, however, if they want to de-brief me, they ought to have done so in writing and I will give them my terms and condition.”
On his part, Nwosu urged the court to allow him to take over the case since one of the plaintiffs already identified him as their new counsel.
He further told the court that the plaintiffs had agreed to withdraw the suit to allow PDP’s National Reconciliation Committee to resolve their grievance.
In his short ruling, Justice Belgore described the drama as “an embarrassment to the legal profession.”
He said: “This is an embarrassment. It is an impunity that should not be tolerated at all in the judiciary. We as lawyers should allow politicians to do their politicking.
“The action two of you showcased in this court today will reverberate beyond this room. This is a trying moment for our profession, which is indeed at a cross-roads.”
On application by counsel to PDP, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), for the interim order against the party to be lifted, Justice Belgore said it will be unjust and inequitable for him to grant the prayer in view of the quagmire in the camp of the plaintiffs.
He said: “I am not prepared to consider the oral application to discharge my earlier order. As it stands now, I do not know who will speak for the plaintiffs.
“Moreover, there is an application by the 2nd defendant challenging the jurisdiction of this court to hear the substantive suit. I don’t have any choice than to adjourn this matter to September 23.”
The plaintiffs had sought for an order of interlocutory injunction to restrain Tukur and other officers of the party from holding the scheduled “special convention,” which date they said was announced by a committee led by former Minister of Information, Prof. Gana.
They urged the court to set aside or nullify all steps and processes that led to the appointment of all the national officers of the party.
Besides, they asked the court to restrain Tukur “from performing any function or duty assigned to the National Working Committee of the defendant.”