Ondo Poll: South-west PDP Loyal to Sheriff Heads to Supreme Court

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•Seeks dissolution of new Appeal Court panel
•Jimoh Ibrahim’s lawyer, Izinyon withdraws from case
•We have respect for judges, says party, disowns Poroye’s petition

Tobi Soniyi and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The states executives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-west loyal to the Ali Modu Sherrif’s faction have filed an application at the Supreme Court to stop the newly constituted panel of the Court of Appeal from hearing appeals relating to the party’s nomination of candidate for the Ondo State governorship election.

They are also asking the Court of Appeal in Abuja to reverse the decision by its President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to constitute a fresh panel to hear these appeals.

In  a motion filed yesterday by members of state executives of the PDP in the six South-west states loyal to Ali Modu Sheriff and led by Biyi Poroye, the factional Chairman of the Ondo State PDP,  they also asked the court to disband the new appeal court’s panel comprising Justices Ibrahim Salauwa, Ignatius Igwe Aguba, and George Mbaba.

They said the new panel was allegedly set up in breach of their right to fair hearing guaranteed under Section 36 of the constitution.

Poroye and others equally prayed the court to order the return of the case files relating to the appeals and the application for leave to appeal as an interested party (against the decision of the Federal High Court of October 14 2016 in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/395/2016) – filed by Eyitayo Jegede (factional PDP candidate of the state PDP “to the Registry of the Court of Appeal to take its normal course and turn in the docket of the court.”

The affected appeals are: CA/A/551/2016 filed by Ahmed Makarfi and Ben Obi against Poroye and 10 others and CA/A/551A/2016 filed by Clement Faboyede and another against 10 others; CA/A551B/2016 filed by the PDP against Poroye and 9 others and CA/A/551C/2016 filed by Jegede against  Poroye and 10 others.

They argued that not only did the President of the Court of Appeal act without hearing from them, the case, being a pre-election matter, did not warrant any urgency to require the constitution of a special panel.

They added that those who filed the appeals against the June 29 and October 14, 2016 decisions of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, were not parties in the cases leading to the decisions.

The applicants also argued that no orders  were made against any of them (those behind the new appeals) and that they (the applicants), who were plaintiffs in the suits, were not informed when the President of the Court of Appeal acted solely on the request by the appellants to constitute the panel on the grounds of urgency.

They have also filed a motion before the Supreme Court seeking a stay of all proceedings before the Court of Appeal in relation to the  appeals pending the determination of the two appeals they filed on October 31, which have entered and given number: SC/914/2016 and SC/915/2016.

The motion filed by two members of the party, Benson Akingboye and Ehiozuwa Agbonayiwa, seeks a stay of  all further proceedings and further hearing in CA/ABJ/402A/2016 filed on behalf of the PDP by a lawyer engaged by the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the party’s leadership.

They based the application on the ground that it was wrong to allow the Court of Appeal to proceed with the appeals when they have valid appeals before the Supreme Court, which challenged the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal.

Other grounds raised by them are: “As the first and second respondents in the lower court, they (Akingboye and Agbonayiwa) challenged by way of preliminary objection the validity of the appeal which originated the appeal at the court below.

The appeal at the Supreme Court, filed on October 31, 2016, by Akingboye and Agbonayiwa, is against the October 29, 2016, decision by the former panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Jumai Sankey in which it ordered accelerated hearing in the appeals.

No date is set for hearing of the appeal filed for the appellant by B.E.I. Nwofor (SAN) yet.
Meanwhile, counsel to Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, the PDP  governorship candidate in the state,  Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN), has withdrawn his representation for the candidate.

Izinyon was representing Ibrahim as respondent at the Court of Appeal in numerous appeals challenging the judgment of a Federal High Court which ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to replace Jegede with Ibrahim as the PDP’s candidate.

In a letter addressed to Ibrahim, Iziyon said he was withdrawing based on an allegation made against him by Justice  Jummai Sankey, that he must have had fore knowledge of the petition written against the justices of the Appeal Court.

 Excerpts from the letter read: “You will recall my position was indicated by the presiding justice as having the foreknowledge of the petition written by the first respondent, despite my protest and innocence. It is in this regard that I hereby withdraw from further appearance.

“This is to enable you brief another lawyer who shall take over the file. We will forward the file and the processes to your Personal Assistant forthwith.”

He noted that further arrangements had been made by his team of lawyers to reach the terms of agreement as contained in the contract involving Ibrahim and himself.

 Justice Sankey and other members of the panel hearing the appeals were forced to disqualify themselves following a petition written by a factional chairman of the party in Ondo State, Biyi Poroye, who is said to be loyal to Ibrahim.

Poroye had alleged that the justices collected bribes from the governor of Ondo State, Segun Mimiko. The justices denied

Iziyon had also denied knowing about the petition when he was confronted by the court.
Jegede and other members of the Ahmed Makarfi faction of the party were dissatisfied with the decision of INEC to replace Jegede with Ibrahim.

 They are hoping that the Court of Appeal will rule in their favour.
However, the Ahmed Makarfi faction of the party has said it has said demonstrated high respect and reverence for the judiciary both while in office and now that it is out office.

The party in a statement signed by its spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said that it was completely dissociating itself from the petition written by the factional chairman of the Ondo State chapter of the PDP, Mr. Biyi Poroye, against the Justice Jummai Sankey-led Appeal Panel set up to determine appeals against the ruling of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court.

“We find the petition to be distasteful, offensive, indecent and completely out of keeping with the principles, ideology and ethos of our party to make such unsubstantiated allegations against members of an institution as important as the judiciary.

“Over the course of our 16 years in power and in our almost two years out of power, our party, the PDP has demonstrated respect and reverence for the judiciary. In this time, we have ensured that we never besmirched the integrity and reputation of the judiciary through the mud, even when we were not comfortable with the judgments and pronouncements that were given.

“It is important to stress that neither the Writer of the petition nor his sponsors are members of our party. They are a group of people with powerful backers within and outside government who are determined to bend all institutions of democracy to suit their whims; and while failing, they are willing to resort to destructive tactics against such institutions. Even our party is a victim of their destructive tendencies. All their attempt is to pervert justice and stop the will of justice from rolling on.

“As a responsible political party, we reaffirm our faith in the Judiciary as the last hope of the common man. We have faith that there are men and women of integrity in the judiciary who ensure that justice is not only done, but that it is seen to be done.

“We use this opportunity to encourage the judiciary to weather this storm of blackmail, harassment and intimidation currently being heralded by evil men in the country,” he said.