IN spite of the protest from the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the three-member panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal hearing the appeals emanating from the Ondo State chapter of the PDP matter on Wednesday heard and reserved judgement in the appeal filed by Eyitayo Jegede, the governorship candidate of the Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi faction of the party.
This is even as the Sheriff-led faction, represented by Belu Olisa Nwofor urged the court to stay proceedings as a notice of appeal against the November 10, 2016 judgment of the court has been entered at the Supreme Court.
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 his name with Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the PDP in the November 26, 2016 governorship election in Ondo State.
Justice Saulawa’s announcement, reserving judgment in the appeal, elicited complaint from the camp of the respondents comprising state’s executive of the PDP in the South-West (loyal to the Ali Modu Sheriff leadership of the party), led by Biyi Poroye, Chairman, PDP, Ondo State.
Their counsel, represented by Beluolisa Nwufor, argued that Jegede’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun, was allowed to adopt the appellant’s brief where the respondents were yet to file their responsents’ brief as required by law and to allow the court hear from both sides.
Nwofor had argued that the court cannot 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.
Meanwhile, counsel to Prince Biyi Poroye and others, Beluolisa E. Nwofor, while reacting to the development, said the implications of the decision of the panel is that his client had been shut out.
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 has lost jurisdiction to proceed with the appeal by Jegede.
“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.
Appellant’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, faulted Nwofor’s argument and urged the court to proceed to hear his client’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, however, 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 shot 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 murmur.
Meanwhile, the court has adjourned till 12 noon today to enable Biyi Poroye and other respondents in the appeal by Senators Ahmed Makarfi and Ben Obi to file their respondents’ briefs.
Makarfi and Obi are appealing the June 29 judgement 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 body.
The court, in two separate rulings yesterday, refused applications by Ibrahim to be made a party in both appeals.
According to him, Jimoh Ibrahim has not made any contribution to Jegede’s appeal giving the fact that the same court had earlier stayed proceedings in the case of Senator Ahmed Makarfi against Benson Akingboye and also in the case of PDP Vs Benson Akingboye.
Earlier, counsel to Prince Biyi Poroye and others, Nwofor prayed the court not to go on with the proceedings because of the pending appeal he filed at the Supreme Court challenging the verdict of the panel that granted leave to Jegede to appeal against the nomination of Jimoh Ibrahim as the substantive candidate for the November 26 election in Ondo State.
Nwofor also informed the court that the Supreme Court has sent a letter of transmission of the appeal to the registrar of the court of appeal and further pleaded with the court to allow him tender a copy of the letter but the panel refused.
He also informed the court that he has filed a stay of execution on the matter pending the determination of the appeal at the Supreme Court.
However, Jegede’s counsel, who opposed the application, submitted that the court has no jurisdiction or power to remove an appeal from the court list or hands off as asked by the applicant.
Olanipekun subsequently adopted his motion seeking to set aside the ruling of the lower court and prayed the court to allow the initial arrangement that confirmed the right of candidacy on his client, Jegede.
The action was objected by Nwofor who told the court that the appeal that granted Jegede leave was being challenged at the Supreme Court, adding also that the appeal was not ripe for hearing
“The limitations of time to file does not include Saturday and Sunday under the interpretation act of 2004. If Sunday is excluded, I will refer the court to Section 16(2)(3)(4)(5) of the Interpretation act.”
Another reason why the appeal is not ripe for hearing, he said, was because by order 8 rule 11 of the Supreme Court rules 1985 as amended, the apex court has seized the whole of the proceedings between the parties.
“There is no appeal to hear since the court has lost its jurisdiction. There is an undisputed fact that a motion on notice for stay of all further proceedings and further hearing of these appeals is pending at the apex court and has been drawn to the notice of this court.
“We maintain that by the effect of this notice, the court cannot entertain the appeal pending the determination of all the appeals before the Supreme Court.”
He added that to proceed to hear the appeal will amount to an exercise in futility and will also amount to judicial rascality and judicial impediment.
Earlier, the court audience were treated to the most horrifying display of actions that seemingly denigrated the hollow chamber.
The altercation started at the resumed hearing when Nwofor announced to the court that proceedings cannot go on in view of a pending appeal he filed at the Supreme Court .
This development was objected to by both counsel to Jegede, Olanipekun and the three member panel presided over by Justice Ibrahim Salauwa.
It was at this point that the peace of the court was let loose giving way to free flow of abusive language across the bar to the bench as well as from the bench to the bar.
Nwofor accused the panel of an attempt to deviate from its earlier decision in the matter and some other matters that would naturally lead to stay of proceedings or adjournment.
The panel, at this point, responded saying, Nwofor is an audacious counsel that has no respect for the bar.
In similar vain, Nwofor replied and told the panel whether the Justices required a timid lawyer who cannot stand and defend the law.
The altercation got other lawyers who were friends of the court to intervene stating that the bench needed to be protected.