By Ogundele Olanrewaju
The former Senate President David Mark-led Reconciliation Committee set up by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has cautioned the party against the sacking of its National Chairman, Uche Secondus.
The committee warned that sacking the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party headed by Secondus before the expiration of its tenure may plunge the opposition party into many legal battles.
But more trouble emerged on Friday for the embattled chairman after a Rivers State High Court declared his suspension by Ward 5 executive committee of the party in Ikuru, in Andoni Local Government Area of the state as valid and subsisting.
The court also granted a perpetual injunction restraining him from parading himself as the national chairman of the PDP.
Secondus is now awaiting the ruling of the Court of Appeal on his appeal against the restraining order slammed against him by two separate High Courts in Rivers and Cross River states.
It was gathered that the Mark committee recommended that the new committee that would be elected at the party’s convention should only resume duties after the expiration of the present NWC’s tenure on December 9.
The panel noted that Secondus who had agreed to withdraw cases in court is yet to do so because Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has not agreed to also withdraw cases he instituted.
The reconciliation committee however has the PDP the go-ahead to conduct its National Convention.
The panel recommended: “That Governor Wike and Chairman Secondus withdraw all court cases to allow for the smooth convention. While Governor Wike has not consented to that yet, Chairman Secondus, however, promised to withdraw the cases if the other party does the same.
“That the party appoints a Convention Committee that should take over the responsibilities of organizing the National Convention as soon as possible.
“That the handing over after the convention could be delayed until December 9, 2021, to enable the current NWC to serve out their term.
“That those beating the drums of war behind the scene are urged to stop beating the drums.
“That the Governors Forum should point the way forward. That there is a need for the governors to continue to be united.”
The committee report was signed by Senator Mark; Governor Darius Ishaku; a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi; a former Minister of Communications, Haliru Bello Mohammed; a former National Chairman of PDP, ex-Governor Okwesilieze Nwodo; a former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun; a former Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Inna Ciroma; and the Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Enyinaya Abaribe.
Court grants perpetual injunction against Secondus
However, a Rivers State High Court yesterday declared the suspension of Prince Uche Secondus, by Ward 5 executive committee of the party in Ikuru Town, in Andoni Local Government Area of the state as valid and subsisting.
The court also ordered a perpetual injunction restraining Secondus from parading himself as National Chairman of PDP.
Justice Okogbule Gbasam of the Degema Judicial Division vacation court upheld the suspension of Secondus while delivering judgment in a case filed by Ibeawuchi Ernest Alex, Dennis Nna Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen and Umezirike Onucha (claimants) against Uche Secondus (1st defendant) and the PDP (2nd defendant).
The judge said after careful review of the submissions made by the lawyers to the parties in the suit, he arrived at the conclusion that evidence presented by the claimants before the court clearly showed that Secondus was suspended by Ward 5 over anti-party activities on August 8, 2021 and that the Andoni LGA office of the PDP wrote a letter of acceptance of the suspension on August 10.
The claimants, according to him, also provided evidence that the state chapter of PDP confirmed the suspension of Secondus on August 11, with another letter written to the Board of Trustee of the party on August 13.
Gbasam noted the first defendant, who was represented by his lawyer, Godfrey Uwalaka, never challenged his suspension by his ward.
He said the suit was not about the suspension of Secondus as national officer, but as a member of the PDP in his ward, his root and foundation as a member of the party.
The judge explained that Article 53 of the PDP clearly states that any member suspended cannot participate in the affairs of the party while on suspension.
He declared that by the virtue of Secondus’ suspension as a member of the PDP in his ward, he has lost the right to function as national chairman of the party and any function carried out by him under suspension remained invalid.
He said: “I, hereby, hold that the court has jurisdiction to hear the suit. I hold, therefore, that his suspension and having been acknowledged by the party in the state, is valid. He shall not so act as national chairman. His suspension still subsists.”
The judge struck out the preliminary objection by Secondus’ lawyer challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.
He also dismissed the objection that the matter ought not to have been filed through originating summons.
Gbasam further dismissed the application brought by Secondus’ lawyer that the court lacked power to meddle in internal affairs of the party.
He declared that the court had a constitutional obligation to hear matters, particularly, when political parties clearly breached their own constitution.
The judge declared Article 59 (3) of the PDP constitution which deals with discipline of national officers as null and void saying such officers could not be judges in their own case.
He issued a consequential order declaring Article 59 (3) of the PDP constitution void, because it is inconsistent with Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
Gbasam, before reading the judgment, dismissed an oral application by Secondus’ lawyer to stay further proceedings on the matter pending the determination of his client’s suit in the Court of Appeal.
But lawyer for the claimants, Nwosuegbe Eze, prayed the court to discountenance the oral application since there was no motion before the court for stay of proceeding.
On the issue of fair hearing raised by lawyer to PDP (second defendant), Eugene Odey, the judge said the lawyer had ample time to represent the client and the issue of fair hearing had no basis.
Gbasam said it had been noticed that parties, who could not prove their cases always use the issue of fair hearing to hoodwink the court.