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Ondo: Jubilation as Jegede returns on PDP ticket

•Appeal Court orders INEC to pay him damages

THERE was jubilation across Ondo State on Wednesday, as the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja declared Eyitayo Jegede as the rightful candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Ondo governorship election slated for Saturday.

Prior to the declaration, there was apprehension in the camp of Jegede before the news filtered into town. However, the campaign office of the PDP candidate erupted with jubilation immediately he was declared as candidate by the judges.

Major towns across the three senatorial districts: Ondo City, Igbokoda, Okitipupa and Owo, Ikare, also witnessed their own share of the jubilation, with supporters trooping to the streets to celebrate the favourable court ruling.

The appellate court, in another judgment, also recognised the Senator Ahmed Mohammed Markafi-led caretaker committee as the national executive of the PDP, having set aside the October 29, 2016 judgment of Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court in Abuja, which declined to recognise them as national officers of the party.

The three-member panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, presided over by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, vacated Justice Abang’s judgment which directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise Jimoh Ibrahim of the Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff-led faction of the party as PDP’s governorship candidate for the election.

Justice Abang had, in his judgment, warned the electoral body against accepting any candidate nominated by the Markafi-led national caretaker committee of the party.

Acting on the strength of the order, INEC, promptly removed Jegede’s name from the list of candidates for the election and replaced it with that of Jimoh Ibrahim.

It will be recalled that whereas Jegede emerged from primaries that was sanctioned by the Markarfi-led NWC of the PDP, Ibrahim, on the other hand, secured his ticket from the Modu-Sheriff faction of the party.

However, the appeal court panel,  in its verdict on Wednesday,  held that Justice Abang’s refusal to grant fair hearing to Jegede “rendered the entire proceedings before his court a nullity.”

According to Justice Saulawa, “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.

“The lower court was in grievous error when it ordered the publication of the name of Jimoh Ibrahim. The decision of the lower court was in total breach of the provision of Section 36 of the 1999 constitution, which forbade any court from denying fair hearing to a party likely to be affected by a final decision of the court,” adding that the action of the court violated the legal doctrine of audi altarem partem (hear from the other side).

“The tenets of natural Justice entails that a party ought to be heard prior to determination of case against them,” the court held

The appellate court also faulted Justice Abang for ordering INEC to “immediately” recognise Jimoh 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 court held 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 held that the primaies that was conducted by the state chapter of the PDP loyal to Modu-Sheriff, which produced Mr Jimoh, was a nullity, stressing that 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 the 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 appellate court held.

Prior to delivery of the judgment, Justice Saulawa had said the panel was at a time “subjected to a very intimidating treatment by counsel for the first to ninth 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’ failure to file their brief by virtue of Order 18 of the Court of Appeal Rules is very obvious and we have made it clear in our judgment,” he said, and 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 counsel for the respondents, Beluolisa Nwofor and I found that it is most grossly lacking in merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” the court held

Having dealt with the preliminary objection of the respondents, the court proceeded to determine the appeal, filed by Jegede on November 11, which raised seven issues for determination on its merit.

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.

Jegede’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, had argued that the high court lacked jurisdiction to determine who should be the candidate of a political party.

Relying on decided case-law in Lado vs CPC, Olanipekun stressed that the issue of nomination of candidates for an election was a domestic affair of a political party which no court had the jurisdiction to meddle into.

The appellate court, in its judgment, held that Jegede was denied fair hearing by the lower court and consequently resolved all the seven issues in Jegede’s favour.

The court held that, “There is no gain saying that this appeal is grossly meritorious and is hereby allowed.”

Consequently, the three-member panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal set aside Justice Abang’s judgment and recognised Senators Makarfi and Obi as the chairman and secretary of the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP.

Justice George Mbaba, who read the lead judgment, held that the court had no power to make an order, either against or in favour of a party who is not in a matter.

“The entire processes filed by the first to ninth respondents was, in my view a fraud and intended to defraud the appellants,” the court held.

“I set aside the most fraudulent judgment of the lower court, having braeched the appellants’ right to fair hearing,” the presiding justice held in his judgment.

The court awarded a cost of N100,000 against the respondents to be paid to the appellants.

Immediately the judgment was delivered, in Akure, there was procession of crowd from the Eyitayo campaign office in Ijapo area of Akure, through the ever-busy Oba Adesida/Oyemekun Road, causing  gridlock in the capital city.

The wife of the governor of the state, Mrs Olukemi Mimiko, whose convoy ran into the jubilant crowd at the popular Oja Oba market, failed to hold her emotions as she and her entourage joined them in celebrating the restored mandate of Jegede.

Mrs Mimiko openly identified with the people, carrying posters of Jegede and urging the people to remain resolute and focused towards winning Saturday’s election.

Some market women hurriedly closed their shops and joined the procession while some state workers abandoned offices to join in the celebration.

The Jimoh Ibrahim campaign Office at Oyemekun was under lock and key, while the flag of the PDP in front of the office had been removed and security operatives at the office had vacated, turning the place to a ghost of itself, while the office of the Biyi Poroye, the PDP-led chairman in the state was also deserted.

Social activities in the state, however, picked up as most drinking joints in Akure came to life, people left their various offices and retired to drinking joints declaring surplus.

In his reaction to the verdict and message to the people of the state, Jegede appreciated the people of the state for their support and prayers during his travails.

“There is no doubt that the past few weeks have been very challenging and trying times for us as we contended with anti-democratic and evil forces who tried to subvert the will of God and the mandate the people freely given to us.

“It was a tortuous journey that tested our faith in God and our conviction in the refreshingly different days ahead of us as we were taunted and harassed by hired propagandist, while we tenaciously forged ahead, we submitted our grievances to the court despite the contraband and manipulation of those who are opposed to democracy.

“We insisted we would explore all legal means in our avowed belief in the rule of law and judiciary. Today, our mouth is filled with laughter and heart with praise, our resilience paid off and our conviction to this doggedness of purpose has made our case another judicial precedence in the country.

“We are grateful to the judiciary for remaining the bastion of democratic process and refusing to be blackmailed, brow beaten and intimidated by those who do not mean well for our state and nation.

“Now, we are set to roll out the drum, not of war, but of God’s faithfulness and sound it loud to our adversaries that the will of God and the desire of the people shall prevail. Our faith and conviction in this project has continued to grow stronger by the day instead of waning.

“Our acceptability and friendship on the rise and has not diminished. The bond with our people is now made stronger. For us, there is no looking back, we remain resolute and focused in our desire to bring development, progress and prosperity to our people.

“This is our article of faith. We dedicate this victory to God almighty and the generality of the people. We urge our people to maximally utilise the few remaining days before the polls to consolidate on our door to door campaign across the state,” he said.

The PDP commended the people of the state and members of the party for their loyalty and thanked God for the outcome of the ruling so far.

A statement issued by the publicity director of the party, Ayo Fadaka, said  “we use this opportunity to appreciate the President of the Court of Appeal and the judges who sat on the matter for being professional and dedicated to their callings. We also thank the Supreme Court judges who also sat on this case and did justice in the most dispassionate manner.

“We, indeed, confirm that the judiciary asserted itself and firmly did justice.

We ask those our members that were led astray by the band of fifth columnists to return back to the party and also to the media to abandon those agent provocateurs whose only goal is to destroy the party,” it said.

THERE was jubilation across Ondo State on Wednesday, as the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja declared Eyitayo Jegede as the rightful candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Ondo governorship election slated for Saturday.

Prior to the declaration, there was apprehension in the camp of Jegede before the news filtered into town. However, the campaign office of the PDP candidate erupted with jubilation immediately he was declared as candidate by the judges.

Major towns across the three senatorial districts: Ondo City, Igbokoda, Okitipupa and Owo, Ikare, also witnessed their own share of the jubilation, with supporters trooping to the streets to celebrate the favourable court ruling.

The appellate court, in another judgment, also recognised the Senator Ahmed Mohammed Markafi-led caretaker committee as the national executive of the PDP, having set aside the October 29, 2016 judgment of Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court in Abuja, which declined to recognise them as national officers of the party.

The three-member panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, presided over by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, vacated Justice Abang’s judgment which directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise Jimoh Ibrahim of the Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff-led faction of the party as PDP’s governorship candidate for the election.

Justice Abang had, in his judgment, warned the electoral body against accepting any candidate nominated by the Markafi-led national caretaker committee of the party.

Acting on the strength of the order, INEC, promptly removed Jegede’s name from the list of candidates for the election and replaced it with that of Jimoh Ibrahim.

It will be recalled that whereas Jegede emerged from primaries that was sanctioned by the Markarfi-led NWC of the PDP, Ibrahim, on the other hand, secured his ticket from the Modu-Sheriff faction of the party.

However, the appeal court panel,  in its verdict on Wednesday,  held that Justice Abang’s refusal to grant fair hearing to Jegede “rendered the entire proceedings before his court a nullity.”

According to Justice Saulawa, “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.

“The lower court was in grievous error when it ordered the publication of the name of Jimoh Ibrahim. The decision of the lower court was in total breach of the provision of Section 36 of the 1999 constitution, which forbade any court from denying fair hearing to a party likely to be affected by a final decision of the court,” adding that the action of the court violated the legal doctrine of audi altarem partem (hear from the other side).

“The tenets of natural Justice entails that a party ought to be heard prior to determination of case against them,” the court held

The appellate court also faulted Justice Abang for ordering INEC to “immediately” recognise Jimoh 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 court held 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 held that the primaies that was conducted by the state chapter of the PDP loyal to Modu-Sheriff, which produced Mr Jimoh, was a nullity, stressing that 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 the 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 appellate court held.

Prior to delivery of the judgment, Justice Saulawa had said the panel was at a time “subjected to a very intimidating treatment by counsel for the first to ninth 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’ failure to file their brief by virtue of Order 18 of the Court of Appeal Rules is very obvious and we have made it clear in our judgment,” he said, and 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 counsel for the respondents, Beluolisa Nwofor and I found that it is most grossly lacking in merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” the court held

Having dealt with the preliminary objection of the respondents, the court proceeded to determine the appeal, filed by Jegede on November 11, which raised seven issues for determination on its merit.

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.

Jegede’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, had argued that the high court lacked jurisdiction to determine who should be the candidate of a political party.

Relying on decided case-law in Lado vs CPC, Olanipekun stressed that the issue of nomination of candidates for an election was a domestic affair of a political party which no court had the jurisdiction to meddle into.

The appellate court, in its judgment, held that Jegede was denied fair hearing by the lower court and consequently resolved all the seven issues in Jegede’s favour.

The court held that, “There is no gain saying that this appeal is grossly meritorious and is hereby allowed.”

Consequently, the three-member panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal set aside Justice Abang’s judgment and recognised Senators Makarfi and Obi as the chairman and secretary of the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP.

Justice George Mbaba, who read the lead judgment, held that the court had no power to make an order, either against or in favour of a party who is not in a matter.

“The entire processes filed by the first to ninth respondents was, in my view a fraud and intended to defraud the appellants,” the court held.

“I set aside the most fraudulent judgment of the lower court, having braeched the appellants’ right to fair hearing,” the presiding justice held in his judgment.

The court awarded a cost of N100,000 against the respondents to be paid to the appellants.

Immediately the judgment was delivered, in Akure, there was procession of crowd from the Eyitayo campaign office in Ijapo area of Akure, through the ever-busy Oba Adesida/Oyemekun Road, causing  gridlock in the capital city.

The wife of the governor of the state, Mrs Olukemi Mimiko, whose convoy ran into the jubilant crowd at the popular Oja Oba market, failed to hold her emotions as she and her entourage joined them in celebrating the restored mandate of Jegede.

Mrs Mimiko openly identified with the people, carrying posters of Jegede and urging the people to remain resolute and focused towards winning Saturday’s election.

Some market women hurriedly closed their shops and joined the procession while some state workers abandoned offices to join in the celebration.

The Jimoh Ibrahim campaign Office at Oyemekun was under lock and key, while the flag of the PDP in front of the office had been removed and security operatives at the office had vacated, turning the place to a ghost of itself, while the office of the Biyi Poroye, the PDP-led chairman in the state was also deserted.

Social activities in the state, however, picked up as most drinking joints in Akure came to life, people left their various offices and retired to drinking joints declaring surplus.

In his reaction to the verdict and message to the people of the state, Jegede appreciated the people of the state for their support and prayers during his travails.

“There is no doubt that the past few weeks have been very challenging and trying times for us as we contended with anti-democratic and evil forces who tried to subvert the will of God and the mandate the people freely given to us.

“It was a tortuous journey that tested our faith in God and our conviction in the refreshingly different days ahead of us as we were taunted and harassed by hired propagandist, while we tenaciously forged ahead, we submitted our grievances to the court despite the contraband and manipulation of those who are opposed to democracy.

“We insisted we would explore all legal means in our avowed belief in the rule of law and judiciary. Today, our mouth is filled with laughter and heart with praise, our resilience paid off and our conviction to this doggedness of purpose has made our case another judicial precedence in the country.

“We are grateful to the judiciary for remaining the bastion of democratic process and refusing to be blackmailed, brow beaten and intimidated by those who do not mean well for our state and nation.

“Now, we are set to roll out the drum, not of war, but of God’s faithfulness and sound it loud to our adversaries that the will of God and the desire of the people shall prevail. Our faith and conviction in this project has continued to grow stronger by the day instead of waning.

“Our acceptability and friendship on the rise and has not diminished. The bond with our people is now made stronger. For us, there is no looking back, we remain resolute and focused in our desire to bring development, progress and prosperity to our people.

“This is our article of faith. We dedicate this victory to God almighty and the generality of the people. We urge our people to maximally utilise the few remaining days before the polls to consolidate on our door to door campaign across the state,” he said.

The PDP commended the people of the state and members of the party for their loyalty and thanked God for the outcome of the ruling so far.

A statement issued by the publicity director of the party, Ayo Fadaka, said  “we use this opportunity to appreciate the President of the Court of Appeal and the judges who sat on the matter for being professional and dedicated to their callings. We also thank the Supreme Court judges who also sat on this case and did justice in the most dispassionate manner.

“We, indeed, confirm that the judiciary asserted itself and firmly did justice.

We ask those our members that were led astray by the band of fifth columnists to return back to the party and also to the media to abandon those agent provocateurs whose only goal is to destroy the party,” it said.