The Court of Appeal sitting Abuja has said that Justice Abang’s judgment sacking the Markafi faction of the PDP, Eyitayo Jegede and replacing him with Jimoh Ibrahim was ‘violent attitudinal disposition to rule of law’.
Justice Ibrahim Saulawa of the court, while giving his verdict, said that Jegede’s appeal was ‘most meritorious and accordingly allowed.’
In an unanimous judgment, Justice Saulawa led three-man Special Panel of the appellate court, vacated the June 29 judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to recognise Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as PDP gubernatorial candidate for the poll.
Jegede had approached the appellate court to challenge the high court verdict which ordered INEC to only relate with the Ali Modu-Sheriff faction of the PDP.
Justice Abang had on October 14, also re-affirmed his decision, even as he warned the electoral body against accepting any candidate nominated by the Senator Ahmed Markafi-led National Caretaker Committee of the PDP.
Towing the order, INEC, promptly removed Jegede’s name from the list of candidates for the Ondo gubernatorial poll, and replaced it with Mr. Ibrahim.
In its verdict, the appellate court, held that Justice Abang’s refusal of to grant fair hearing to Jegede, “rendered the entire proceedings before his court a nullity”.
Justice Saulawu said, “Indeed it is obvious from the records that the appellant’s name had been duly published as the governorship candidate of the 11th respondent (PDP) for the November 26 Ondo governorship election”
He held that the lower court was in grievous error when it ordered the publication of Ibrahim’s name pointing out that the decision of the high court was in total breach of the provision of section 36 of the 1999 constitution, which it said forbade any court from denying fair hearing to a party likely to be affected by final decision of the court.
Saulawa, said the action of the court violated the legal doctrine of audi altarem partem – “The tenets of natural Justice entails that a party ought to be heard prior to determination of case against them”.
The appellate court also noted that Justice Abang ordered INEC to “immediately” recognize Mr. Ibrahim who was never a party in the suit that culminated to both the June 29 and October 14 judgments.
“The Court below had no jurisdictional competence to make such order. I have no restriction in the circumstance in resolving the second issue equally in favour of the appellant”.
The Appeal Court said that Justice Abang “unilaterally”, raised issues that were not included by the plaintiffs, an action it said amounted to “a violent attitudinal disposition to the rule of law”.
Besides, the court said the primary election that was conducted by the State Chapter of the PDP loyal to Modu-Sheriff, which produced Mr. Ibrahim, was a nullity.
It said the law was very clear on which organ of a party should conduct governorship primary elections.
“It is worth reiterating at this point that any primary election by state chapter of a party, be it the PDP or any other party, is undoubtedly, in the eye of the law, an illegal contraption that carries with it no legal or equitable right at all. It is in its entirety a nullity”, the court held.
Before he delivered the judgment, Justice Saulawa, said the panel was at a time, “subjected to a very intimidating and brow-beating treatment by counsel the Respondents”.
“Most regrettably, the Respondents have deemed it expedient to shoot themselves on the foot. Instead of adhering to the wise counsel of the Court to file brief within the time limit, even the extra day that was granted to them, they refused to do so.
“The consequences of the Respondents failing to file their brief by virtue of Order 18 of the Court of Appeal Rules are very obvious and we have made it clear in our judgment”.
Justice Saulawa noted that instead of filing their brief of argument, the Respondents insisted that the appellate court had lost its jurisdiction to entertain Jegede’s suit by virtue of the appeal they lodged at the Supreme Court.
“I have most critically appraised the preliminary objection by Nwufor, SAN, and I found that it is most grossly lacking in merit and it is accordingly dismissed. “Having effectively dealt with the preliminary objection, I now proceed to determine the appeal on its merit”.
The court noted that Jegede filed his appeal on November 11, which raised seven issues for determination.
The issues included whether it was proper for the high court to order INEC to jettison Jegede’s name after he had already been nominated by the PDP and his name published.
Olanipekun argued that the high court lacked jurisdiction to determine who should be the candidate of a political party.
Referring to a decided case-law in Lado vs CPC, Olanipekun, pointed out that the issue of nomination of candidates for an election is a domestic affair of a political party which no court has the jurisdiction to meddle into.
He said Justice Abang was wrong when he held that he had the requisite jurisdiction to determine the matter.
The appellate court, in arriving at its decision, said it was necessary that it determined whether or not the appellant was denied fair hearing by the lower court. It consequently resolved all the seven issues in Jegede’s favour.
“There is no gain saying that this appeal is grossly meritorious and is hereby allowed”.
An initial three-man panel that was headed by Justice Jummai Hanatu-Sankey earlier withdrew itself from resolving the dispute, following allegation that it collected N350million bribe from Governors Olusegun Mimiko and Nyesom Wike of Ondo and Rivers States, respectively.
The allegation was contained in a petition that PDP Chairman in Ondo state, Prince Biyi Poroye wrote against the panel wherein he insisted that they were compromised.
Leave A Response