A-Court hands-off Ondo PDP governorship ticket dispute

The Court of Appeal in Abuja has
adjourned sine-die (indefinitely), further
proceeding on the crisis rocking the Peoples
Democratic Party, PDP, in Ondo State.
In a ruling on Friday, a three-man Special
Panel of the appellate court led by Justice
Ibrahim Salauwa, announced their decision
to hands-off dispute over who should be the
flag-bearer of the PDP in the Ondo State
governorship election billed for November
26.
The panel, which had earlier reserved its
judgment on an appeal lodged before the
appellate court by one of the contenders for
the PDP ticket, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN,
based its decision on a motion from the
Supreme Court.
“Only yesterday, at about 7pm, we were
served a motion in suit No CA/
A/551b/2016, which was filed in the
Supreme Court on November 17”, Justice
Saulawa stated.
He said the motion which was filed by six
chieftains of the PDP in South West, led by
Chairman of the party in Ondo State, Prince
Biyi Poroye, among other things, prayed the
apex court to invoke its disciplinary powers
against the appellate court panel.
The Poroye led group, who are Respondents
in Jegede’s appeal, further prayed the apex
court to not only set aside proceedings of
the appellate court, but to also restrain the
special panel from further adjudicating on
the dispute.
Besides, the Respondents, who are
appellants before the Supreme Court, equally
applied for an order disqualifying/recusing
all members of the special panel on the
ground that they betrayed there Oath of
Office by their refusal to be bound by laid
down judicial principle of staris-decisis.
Poroye and the other Respondents
contended that the panel had in a ruling it
delivered on November 16, okayed Jegede’s
appeal, despite being aware that the
Supreme Court was already seized of the
facts in dispute.
They had through their lawyer, Mr. Beluolisa
Nwufor, SAN, vehemently opposed decision
of the panel to hear Jegede’s appeal.
Nwufor, SAN, insisted that hearing the
appeal would amount to the panel engaging
in an act of “judicial rascality” since the
matter was already before the apex court.
He argued that in line with the legal
principle of lis-pendis, the appellate court
ought to hands-off the case to avoid a
situation where it would conduct a parallel
proceeding with the Supreme Court on the
same subject matter.
“In view of the unchallenged facts brought
to the notice of this court that an appeal
against the ruling granting leave to the
appellant to appeal the high court judgment,
which this court made on November 10, is
already before the Supreme Court and has
been entered.
“It is therefore our position that this court
has lost its jurisdiction to continue with this
matter. By order 5 Rule 11 of the Supreme
Court Rules 1985, as amended, the Supreme
Court is now seized of the whole of this
proceeding as between the parties herein.
“It is also an undisputed fact that a motion
on notice for staying of all further
proceedings and further hearing in this
appeal is pending at the Supreme Court and
has been drawn to the notice of this court.
“We thus maintain that this panel cannot
entertain further proceedings until that
motion is decided by the apex court, one
way or the other.
“Proceeding to hear this appeal will amount
to an effort in futility. It will amount to
judicial rascality and judicial impertinence.
“I submit that this court should not conduct
parallel proceeding with the Supreme Court
regarding the same case, but should allow
the apex court, in line with the dictates of
the hierarchy of courts established by the
constitution, which places the Supreme
Court above this court, to take a decision
regarding the pending motion for stay of
proceedings already before it.
“I urge you to follow your own earlier rulings
in CA/A/402/2016 and CA/A/402a/ 2016,
delivered on September 8, concerning this
same Ondo PDP crisis”, Nwufor submitted.
However, the panel, rejected his submission,
even as it gave Jegede’s lead counsel, Chief
Wole Olanipekun, SAN, the nod to adopt his
processes in the appeal.
Olanipekun had urged the court to ignore
Nwufor’s submissions which he said lacked
merit and substance.
He maintained that the appellate court had
a constitutional responsibility to do justice
in the case, saying the court would be
abdicating its duties should it allow itself to
be stampeded into handing-off the matter.
Meanwhile, announcing the withdrawal of
the panel from the matter on Friday, Justice
Salauwa, said they took into account, “all
the circumstances surrounding the case”, as
well as “mischievous processes” filed by the
Respondents.
He noted that a previous panel of the court
equally disqualified itself from handling the
matter following allegation by the same
Respondents that it collected N350million
bribe to deliver judgment in Jegede’s favour.
“This panel was put in place as a rescue
mission after the previous panel headed by
Justice Jumai Hannatu-Sankey, revised
themselves following mischievous
allegations by the Respondents.
“We have come this far and having had a
number of considerations and circumstances
surrounding politically motivated allegation
against us.
“We have decided that enough is enough. It
is now time for us to do what is most
reasonable and needful, that is, to await the
outcome of the Supreme Court on all the
issues.
“For us to continue, especially in view of the
unfortunate development will be contrary to
the voice of wisdom and voice of courage.
“It is our view that we have to await the
outcome of the decision of the Supreme
Court.
“We have been guided by the Supreme Court
decision in Agumagu vs NJC to arrive at the
decision. It is left for the apex court to
decide whether or not we are right or
otherwise.
“We hereby rule that the instant appeal and
other sister appeals slated today for ruling,
stand adjourned sine-die to await outcome
of decision of the Supreme Court”, Justice
Salauwa stated.
More so, Vanguard learnt that the
Respondents have also lodged a petition
against members of the panel before the
National Judicial Council, NJC.
Aside Justice Saulawa, other members of
the panel are Justices Igwe Aguba and
George Mbaba.
Jegede had approached the appellate court
to challenge the judgment of June 29
judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the
Federal High Court in Abuja, which directed
the Independent National Electoral
Commission to only relate with the Ali
Modu-Sheriff faction of the PDP.
Justice Abang, on October 14, also re-
affirmed the verdict, even as he warned the
electoral body against accepting candidate
nominated by the Senator Ahmed Markafi-
led National Caretaker Committee of the
PDP.
Acting on the strength of the high court
order, INEC, promptly removed Jegede’s
name from the list of candidates for the
Ondo gubernatorial poll, and replaced it
with Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim.
It will be recalled that whereas Jegede
emerged from primary election that was
sanctioned by the Markarfi-led NWC of the
PDP, Ibrahim on the other hand, secured his
ticket from the Modu-Sheriff faction of the
party.

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