THE president of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has constituted a fresh panel to handle all the appeals emanating from the legal tussle over the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State
The constitution of the new panel followed the withdrawal of the three-member panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Jummai Hannatu Sankey from all the appeals relating to Ondo State governorship election slated for November 26, 2016.
The three Justices handed off the cases following a petition written by a factional chairman of the PDP in the state, Prince Biyi Poroye, who alleged that the Justices had been compromised.
But the Senator Ahmed Makarfi faction of the party in the state has called for the investigation of the allegations raised by Poroye, raising the alarm that plans were afoot to sideline Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, who won the party’s primary held in Akure.
In a letter with reference number, PCA/Abuja/VII/2016, Justice Bulkachuwa named the acting Presiding Judge of Calabar Division, Justice Ibrahim M. Saulawa as the chairman of the panel, which has Justices Ignatius Igwe Agube from Owerri Division and Godwin Mbaba also from Owerri Division, as members.
The fresh three-member panel of Justices of the appellate court will handle appeals by the PDP and Chief Benson Akingboye and two others; that of Hon. Diri Kelly Adonye and another and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and two others,;Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi and another and Prince Biyi Poroye and 10 others and the appeal by Mr Clement Faboyede and another and Prince Biyi Poroye and 10 others.
It will be recalled that the leadership tussle between the Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi-led caretaker committee and the Senator Ali Modu-Sherif faction of the PDP led to the substitution of the name of Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN with that of Mr Jimoh Ibrahim, as the governorship candidate of the party.
“You are hereby empanelled to sit and determine the above appeals in Abuja Division expeditiously. Fixation of dates to be worked out with the presiding Justice of the Abuja Division (Justice Abdul Aboki)”, Justice Bulkachuwa stated in the letter.
Poroye, in his petition dated 31st October, 2016 addressed to the president of the Court of Appeal, alleged that Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State had boasted in the public that he and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State have settled the Justices on Justice Sankey-led panel with N350 million.
Poroye, in an affidavit evidence, said he believed that the Justices had been compromised.
He demanded for the disbandment of the panel on the ground that his side would not get justice from the panel, even as he faulted the composition of a special panel to hear a pre-election matter.
But the PDP, in a statement issued by the publicity secretary of the party, Honourable Banji Okunomo, who called on the Court of Appeal to conduct investigation into the allegation by a member of Sheriff group.
Okunomo said investigating the allegation “will serve as a deterrent to others in that category.”
He also called “on the President of the Court of Appeal to conduct a full-scale investigation to ascertain the veracity of the grievous allegations of corruption by the petitioner and the bring them to book, if the allegations are found to be untrue.
”We also wish to call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to live above board and be father to all .
“He should be mindful of certain forces within his government who are using government institutions against the people of the country by perpetrating anti-democratic tendencies that are injurious to the survival of our nation,” the statement said.
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who represented Jegede in his appeal, condemned Poroye for writing the petition against the judges and warned politicians not to destroy the judiciary because of their parochial interests, saying the judiciary remained the only institution “that is the cornerstone and foundation of Nigeria’s democracy.”
Counsel to the petitioner, Dr. Alex Izinyon, said he was not aware of the petition.
In his words: “Let me say it here that I have been caged by my client in his bid to make a caricature of the court. The court must be protected and allowed to do its job.
“I am not a party to the petition and I am ready to go ahead with the case. This petition is an embarrassment to me. It is a slight to me and I do not stand by the petitioner,” he said.