THE new Special Court of Appeal Panel constituted to resolve all appeals in the Ondo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidacy dispute has fixed tomorrow for ruling on preliminary motions brought before it.
Justice Ibrahim Salauwa, leading the three-member panel, on Tuesday, fixed the date after counsel to parties had argued their applications.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Senator Ben Obi, Biyi Poroyo, Eyitayo Jegede, and Jimoh Ibrahim are all parties in the matter.
The Executive of PDP South-West Zone and Ondo State Executive members of the party are also interested parties.
The new panel had succeeded the Justice Hannatu Sankey’s panel which disqualified itself on November 2, following accusation of fraud against the members.
The two other justices in the new panel are Igwe Aguba and George Mbaba.
The panel is expected to determine if Jegede should be granted leave to appeal the October 29 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
It would also determine the legitimate national leadership of the party empowered to conduct governorship primaries of the party among others.
Mr Beloulisa Nwafor (SAN) asked the court to reverse the administrative decision by its President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to constitute a fresh panel to hear appeals relating to the dispute.
Nwafor , counsel to Poroye and eight others, had sought the dissolution of the panel, saying that it lacked jurisdiction.
The motion was brought pursuant to Section 36, Order 7 Rule 1 of the Court of Appeal Rules.
The motion was also supported by a 14-paragraph affidavit.
“The motion is asking for the dissolution of the special panel constituted by the President of the Court to determine appeals arising from the Ondo State PDP governorship candidacy disputes.
“The panel has no jurisdiction to entertain the matter as our clients were not served the notice for the constitution of this special panel,” he said.
He also said Jegede, who contested the governorship nomination of the party, had approached the president of the court for the penal, adding that it was against fair hearing.
“We therefore want the administrative decision of the court that constituted this panel to be set aside.
“By extension, we are urging the members of the panel to disband the panel as they have backing of law to adjudicate on these appeals.
“If this development is allowed to go on, it would amount to disrespect for the rule of law, due process and fair hearing,” he said.
Mr Olaagoke Fakunle (SAN), counsel to the Sheriff-led faction, also asked the court to disband the panel forthwith.
He alleged that the panel was set up in breach of the applicant’s right to fair hearing guaranteed under Section 36 of the Constitution.
According to the appellants, the court lacks the jurisdiction to constitute the panel to hear the matter.
He equally prayed the court to order the return of the case files relating to all the appeals to the Registry of the court.
But Chief Wole Olanikpekun (SAN), counsel to Jegede, urged the panel to dismiss the motion.
“We oppose this motion; we are urging the court to dismiss the motion on the basis of the motion itself and the grounds of the motion which are baseless, ”he said.
On the submission by Nwafor that no counter affidavit was filed challenging the propriety of the motion, Olanipekun said there was nothing to counter.
He said the motion was contrived by the applicant and counsel to the Sheriff-led PDP faction to frustrate the hearing of this matter.
On the allegation that Jegede approached the president of the court for the constitution of a special penal to hear the appeals, Olanipekun argued that the submission should be discountenanced.
“My noble Lords, the applicant has not attached any letter that proves such fact and therefore, the panel cannot decide on such element.
“Also, the court should take judicial notice of the applicant’s submission that challenges the capacity of the president of the court from taking administrative decisions.
“We are of the thinking that the applicant having challenged the powers of the president of the court should have joined her as a party in the application,” he said.
Olanipekun further argued that the word “decision” in the context of its usage by the applicant was not contemplated by Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution.
“The court can neither set aside the decision of the president of the court nor bestow powers on the applicant to appeal.
“This application is simply an attempt to truncate and frustrate judicial process and it must be resisted,’’ he said.
On the point of law, Nwafor, however, argued that facts submitted needed no proof.
He said Olanipekun had earlier agreed that his client filed a representation before the president of the court asking for a special panel to hear his appeal.
“This formal representation filed by Jegede resulted in the constitution of this special panel. “Our contention is that we were not notified,” Nwafor said.
On the motion seeking leave of the court to appeal the October 29 decision of the Federal High Court as an interested party by Jegede, Olanipekun urged the court to grant it.
He also prayed the court for an extension of time to file the appeal.
Olanipekun further sought the permission of the court to depart from the rules of the court and accept the applicant’s appeal.
He said the objections raised by the respondents were clear attempt to rob his client of his legitimate right, having emerged as the party’s governorship candidate from a primary conducted in Akure.