A THREE-MAN Court of Appeal special panel constituted to hear the appeals on the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State has reserved judgment in the appeal by the party’s substituted candidate Eyitayo Jegede (SAN).
The panel, led by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, told parties yesterday that they would be informed of the judgment day.
Jegede appealed the October 14, 2016 ruling of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, directing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to substitute Jegede with Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP in the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State.
Justice Saulawa’s anouncement elicited complaints from the respondents, comprising states executives of the PDP in the Southwest (loyal to the Ali Modu Sheriff leadership of the party), led by Biyi Poroye, factional Chairman PDP, Ondo State.
Their lawyer argued that Jegede’s lawyer was allowed to adopt the appellant’s brief when the respondents were yet to file their brief as required and to allow the court hear from both sides.
Respondents’ lawyer Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN) argued that the court could not hear the substantive appeal in view of the pending appeal at the Supreme Court.
He told the Appeal Court panel that his clients had appealed its earlier ruling granting leave to Jegede to appeal and that they had also filed a motion for stay of proceedings before the Supreme Court.
Nwofor, who tendered certified true copies of the record of appeal and motion for stay of proceedings, urged the court to abide by the long held tradition of deferring to a higher court once an appeal is entered and record of appeal compiled.
He argued that since their appeal was entered at the Supreme Court and a motion for stay of proceedings also pending before the apex court, the appellate panel had lost jurisdiction to proceed with Jegede’s appeal.
“We have asked this court to hands off and await the Supreme Court’s decision on our motion for stay of proceedings. This court has lost the jurisdiction to proceed with this appeal. It should await the decision of the Supreme Court.
The appellant’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), faulted Nwofor’s argument and urged the court to proceed to hear his cleint’s appeal.
He argued that, for his client, time was of the essence because by the new provision of the Electoral Act, a person, who did not participate in all process of an election cannot challenge its outcome.
Justice Saulawa overruled Nwofor, noting that the court had, on November 10, 2016 granted an accelerated hearing in the case, abridged the time within which parties are to file their processes and a departure from the rules.
Shortly after the judge spoke, Olanipekun adopted his client’s appellant’s brief and urged the court to allow the appeal.
Nwofor, who expressed surprise at the development, said his clients had been shut out. He said the court failed to abide by tradition where appeals are entered.
As Justice Saulawa announced the reservation of judgment, supporters of Jimoh Ibrahim and Sheriff, who occupied a section of the court, began to grumble.
The court also adjourned till noon today to enable Poroye and other respondents in the appeal by Senators Ahmed Makarfi and Ben Obi file their respondents’ briefs.
Makarfi and Obi are appealing the June 29 judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja recognising the Sheriff-led National Executive Council of the PDP as the party’s authentic leadership.
The court, in two separate rulings yesterday, refused applications by Ibrahim to be made a party in both appeals.