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Ondo poll: Appeal Court verdict will help nurture Nigeria’s fragile democracy — Jegede

•Supporters celebrate victory

The reinstated People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in Ondo State governorship election, Eyitayo Jegede has said that the development would help to nurture the country’s fragile democracy.

He stated this while speaking with newsmen after the court’s session validating his nomination as true PDP candidate.

On his part, PDP factional chairman, Ahmed Makarfi said the pronouncement of the appellate court had ended the reign of darkness in PDP.

Consequent upon the Appeal Court’s validation of his candidature, supporters of Jegede are celebrating the development, as they are seen dancing round streets with songs of victory.

Justice Ibrahim Saulaawa, who led two other Justices in a unanimous decision held that the Federal High Court erred in its Oct.14  ruling, and thereby ruled that Jegede is the true candidate of PDP in the Saturday election.

Justice Okon Abang had in that ruling substituted Jegede’s name with Jimoh Ibrahim as the governorship candidate of the party.

Saulaawa said the law forbade the trial court or any other court from denying interested parties  fair hearing.

He also held that the court equally erred when it ordered INEC to remove the name of the appellant from its nomination register.

The Judge said, Ibrahim who benefited from that `strange order’ was never a party in the suit.

“Justice Okon Abang should know that the Constitution and the Electoral Act empower only the national leadership of political parties to nominate political candidates.

“The trial judge on his own, without allowing parties to present their arguments went ahead to deliver that ruling.

“There is no gainsaying that the extant appeal is meritorious and therefore allowed,” he said

The judge said: “consequently, the Oct. 14 judgment ruling of the trial court is hereby set aside and the appellant”.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the appellate court on Nov.10 granted Jegede leave to appeal the decision of the Federal High Court Abuja.

On which group is the authentic leader of the party, Justice George Mbaba described the process that led to the June 29 judgment as a `fraud’.

Mbaba said the trial court breached Section 36(1) of the Constitution by denying the Ahmed Makarfi Caretaker committee right of fair hearing.

The judge therefore held that the judgment of the lower court delivered on June 29 remained void and a nullity.

NAN reports that judgment had affirmed the Sheriff-faction of the PDP as the authentic leadership of the party.

“With this development, all actions taken by the Sheriff-faction, including the selection of Jimoh Ibrahim as candidate of the party remain illegal and with no effect,” he said.

In his earlier submission, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), counsel to Jegede and the Ahmed Makarfi-faction had prayed the court to set aside the ruling of the lower court, adding that it was given in bad light.

Olanipekun had also said the court should order the reinstatement of his client as the authentic candidate of the party to contest the election.

According to him, Jegede is the candidate that emerged from the party’s primary conducted in Akure.

He had argued further that Ibrahim’s name was submitted and immediately recognised by INEC following the ruling of the lower court.

‘`My Lords I want the court to take judicial notice of the fact that my client was affected by a decision of trial court even though he was not enlisted as a party.

“All our attempts for him to be joined as an interested party failed at that level, leaving us with no option but to approach this court,” he said.

Also, Olanipekun had urged the court to reinstate the Makarfi-led Caretaker committee as the authentic leadership of the party.

He said the lower court erred in law when it held that Sheriff, the former Acting National Chairman of the party remained the authentic leader.

According to him, Sheriff should not have claimed such position following the decision of the National Working Committee (NEC) of the party to set the caretaker committee.

Olanipekun submitted that Sheriff’s tenure  as the leader of the party had expired, adding that he could not have had the right to conduct the Ondo PDP governorship primary.

However, Mr Beloulisa Nwofor (SAN), counsel to Biyi Poroye, Chairman of the Ondo State Chapter of PDP and eight others, told the court that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

He had announced to the court that the Nov.10 ruling that gave leave of the court to Jegede to appeal the nomination of Ibrahim was appealed against at the Supreme Court.

He submitted that the panel should refrain from further action on the matter, adding that doing the contrary would amount to the violation of the constitution, the rules of the court as well as the oath of judicial office.

The Supreme Court on Nov.22 dismissed the interlocutory motion filed by Nwofor on behalf of his clients.

Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria went on to restore the jurisdiction to the Court of Appeal to determine all appeals arising from the PDP leadership dispute.

The apex court held that all 12 out of the 14 motions and appeals brought by Sheriff-faction were frivolous as they were not supported by the records of the court of appeal.

The apex court further held that it decision to dismiss those appeals was predicated on the fact that all issues raised therein were not proved.

NAN reports that Sheriff-faction of the party had asked the apex court to set aside the proceedings of the special panel.

It also urged the court to invoke its power to disband the panel following allegation of disregard to hierarchy of court leveled against the three justices.

The appeal court had on Oct. 18, suspended its judgment pending the decision of the apex court.

Nwofor, later filed an alternative objections on Olanipekun’s submissions, adding that the appellants breached the rules guiding filing of appeals.

He argued that the appellants ought not to have been allowed to appeal judgment out of time.

Nwofor argued that the appellants were interlopers, adding that they were not parties in the matter at the trial court.

He said they also approached the court after three months of the delivery of the judgment.

Mr Godswill Mrakpo, counsel to Sheriff-faction of the PDP, had aligned with arguments canvassed by Nwofor, as according to him, proceedings by the panel after notice of stay is served  should remain null and void.

The presiding judge, however, insisted that the extant appeals earlier argued by Olanipekun sufficed.

Sheriff, Makarfi, Obi and Jegede were the parties in the matter.

The Executive of PDP South West Zone and Ondo State Executive members of the party were also listed as parties.

Speaking to newsmen after the court’s session, Jegede said the development would help to nurture the country’s fragile democracy.

On his part, Makarfi said the pronouncement of the appellate court had ended the reign of darkness in PDP.