The governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, and his favoured candidate in the Ondo governorship election, Eyitayo Jegede, suffered a setback yesterday before the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
A special three-man panel of the court, constituted to hear the appeals on the dispute over the governorship candidate of the PDP in Ondo State and the party’s leadership, declined to deliver the judgments it had scheduled for yesterday.
As the legal battle rages, Mr Jimoh Ibrahim remains the governorship candidate of the party recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
The panel’s head, Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, said judgments in the appeals by Jegede (marked: CA/A/551C/2016) and that by Ahmed Makarfi and Ben Obi (CA/A/551/2016) and other businesses of the panel in relation to all the cases will be suspended pending the decision of the Supreme Court on a motion of stay of proceedings pending before it.
Justice Saulawa cited a fresh motion filed on November 17 before the Supreme Court by respondents in the appeals, led by the factional Chairman of the PDP in Ondo, Biyi Poroye, and said it was prudent for his panel to await the decision of the Supreme Court.
He noted that the panel has been subjected to undue stress in view of the contentious and political nature of the cases.
Justice Saulawa said although his panel was of the view that proceedings in the cases could continue, “having come this far,” it was now reasonable to apply the breaks, particularly when members of the panel have now been made parties to the fresh motion before the Supreme Court.
“We hereby rule that this instant appeal and other appeals slated for today for judgments and ruling stand adjourned sine die to await the outcome of the Supreme Court,” Justice Saulawa said.
Jegede, Makarfi and Obi had in October applied to the Appeal Court for leave to appeal the judgment of June 29, 2016 and the ruling of October 14 by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In the June 29 judgment, Justice Abang affirmed the Ali Modu Sheriff factional leadership of the PDP as the party’s authentic leaders and in the October ruling ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to substitute Jegede’s name for Jimoh Ibrahim as the party’s candidate for the Ondo governorship election scheduled for November 26.
The Justice Saulawa-led appeal panel on November 10, 2016 granted Jegede, Makarfi and Obi leave to appeal, deemed the appeal they filed as properly filed and abridged the time within which parties are to file their briefs.
The respondents, led by Poroye, appealed to the Supreme Court the panel’s ruling of November 10, granting leave to Jegede, Makarfi and Obi. In addition, they filed a motion before the Supreme Court for stay of further proceedings before the appeal panel.
On November 16 and 17, despite the complaint by respondents’ lawyers, led by Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN), to the effect that their clients’ appeal had been entered at the Supreme Court and record of proceedings compiled and transmitted, the Saulawa panel proceeded to hear the appeals by Jegede, Makarfi and Obi and reserved judgments.
Dissatisfied with the decision by the Saulawa panel not to stay proceedings, the respondents filed the fresh motion before the Supreme Court on November 17.
The respondents are, in the fresh motion, seeking three prayers, to include an order setting aside the proceedings of the Saulawa panel held on November 16; an order stopping the panel from further conducting proceedings, including delivering the reserved judgments.
They argued, in the motion, which has members of the Saulawa panel listed as 5th, 6th and 7th respondents, that the panel’s failure to stay proceedings in deference to the Supreme Court amounted to judicial impudence on the part of the panel’s members.
The respondents added, in their motion, that the Saulawa panel’s refusal to stay proceedings in the face of their appeal which has been entered at the Supreme Court and records compiled, and the additional fact of the pendency of their application for stay of proceedings, amounted to a flagrant disregard of judicial tradition of respect for the apex court.
They added that by refusing to stay proceedings, members of the panel – Justices Saulawa, Ignatius Agube and Goerge Mbaba – “have betrayed their oath of office in their deliberate refusal to be bound by the principles of judicial precedent and stare decisis and refused to be bound by their own rulings delivered on November, 8,2016 in appeal marked: CA/A/402/2016: Peoples Democratic Party v. Chief Benson Akingboye and ors, and CA/A/402A/2016 by Sen Ahmed Makarfi vs Chief Benson Akingboye and ors.”
They argued that the panel’s continued conduct of proceedings, despite being aware of an appeal pending at the Supreme Court, the pendency of a motion for stay of proceedings and the fact that the appeal had been entered, amounted to “ flagrant and blatant breach of the doctrine of lis pendens, stare decisis and violation of required respect of the Supreme Court.”
It was these motions, marked: SC/ 947/2016 and SC/952/2016, that Justice Saulawa referred to while announcing his panel’s decision to withhold its decision and further actions in all the appeals.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has fixed next Tuesday for the hearing of the motion for stay of proceedings filed by the nine respondents led by Poroye.
Lawyer to Jegede, Makarfi and Obi, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) disclosed this while addressing journalists after court’s proceedings yesterday.
He spoke in reaction to a question on whether or not it is possible for the appeal panel to render its judgment before the election in Ondo State.
Akinlaja said the Supreme Court has sent notices to parties in relation to the motion for stay of proceedings. He added that if the apex court decides that the panel needed not to stay its proceedings, it will then proceed to deliver its judgments.
The motion, which the Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday, is that seeking the stay of further proceedings by the appeal ýpanel pending the determination by the Supreme Court of an appeal by the Poroye group against the panel’s ruling granting leave to Jegede, Ahmed Makarfi and Ben Obi to appeal the June 29 judgment and October 14 ruling by Justice Abang.