SPECIAL Court of Appeal Penal Panel constituted to resolve all appeals in the Ondo State Peoples Democratic Party’s, PDP, governorship candidate crisis is set to deliver ruling on motion seeking it to disband itself. Justice Ibrahim Salauwa, leading the three-member panel, had on Friday in Abuja, opened hearing in the multiple appeals. The new special panel had succeeded the Justice Jummai Sankey’s panel which disqualified itself on November.2, following accusation of fraud against the members. Two other justices that made up the panel were Igwe Aguba and George Mbaba. Senators Ali Modu Sheriff, Ahmed Makarfi and Ben Obi, Biyi Poroyo, Eyitayo Jegede and Jimoh Ibrahim were parties in the matter. PDP executive in the South- West zone and Ondo State executive members of the party were also interested parties. The panel, among other things is, therefore, to determine the legitimate faction empowered to conduct governorship primaries of the party. The court had been for the umpteenth time asked to reverse the administrative decision by its President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to constitute a fresh panel to hear appeals relating to the dispute. At the resumed hearing yesterday, Mr Benson Nwafor, SAN, Counsel to Poroye and eight others, sought to move an application challenging the jurisdiction of the special panel. 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 candidate dispute. Nwafor submitted that the panel had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter, adding that its clients were not served notice for the constitution of the appeal. He also said Jegede, who contested the governorship nomination of the party, had approached the president of the court for this penal, adding that it was against fair hearing. “We, therefore, want the administrative decision of the court that constituted this penal to be set aside. By extension, we are urging members to disband the panel as they have no backing of law to adjudicate on these appeals. “If this development is allowed to go on it would amount to disrespect of the rule of law, due process and fair hearing,” he said. Also, Counsel to the Sheriff-led faction, Mr Godswill Mrakpo, also asked the court to disband the panel forthwith. Mrakpo alleged that it 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 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 appeals to the registry of the court. However, Counsel to Jegede, Chief Wole Olanikpekun, SAN, urged the panel to dismiss the motion. “We oppose this motion, we are urging the court to dismiss it on the basis of the motion itself and the grounds 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 is 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 allegation that Jegede approached the president of the court for the constitution of a special penal to hear these appeals, Olanipekun argued that the submission should be discountenanced. “My noble lords, the applicant has not attached any letter or correspondence 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 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 can be appealed against by the applicant in this manner. This application is simply an attempt to truncate and frustrate judicial process and it must be resisted. On the point of law, Nwafor submitted that the facts submitted needed no proof, adding that its process that his client filed a representation before the president of the court. “This formal representation filed by Jegede resulted in the constitution of this special panel. Our contention is that we were not notified,” Nwafor said. However, the court had allowed counsel to Jegede to move his client’s application seeking leave to appeal the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that ceded the certificate of return to Jimoh Ibrahim. Olanipekun urged the court to grant expeditious hearing to the application because the matter requires urgent attention. According to him, the development is a clear attempt to rob his client of his legitimate right, having emerged as the party’s governorship candidate from a primary conducted in Akure. The application was opposed by counsel to the Sheriff-led PDP faction, South-west PDP and chairman of Ondo PDP, Poroye, respectively. Meanwhile, Jimoh Ibrahim, has challenged the jurisdiction of the new panel setup by Zainab Bulkachuwa, President of the Court of Appeal to hear and determine the PDP Ondo governorship crisis and therefore prayed that the court be disbanded. This was the position of his Counsel, Beluolisa Nwofor, but reacting to his application, Wole Olanipekun, Counsel to Eyitayo Jegede, factional candidate of the party in Ondo, urged the judges to dismiss the motion. “We are urging your lordship to dismiss the motion itself, may I submit that there is nothing to counter in it,” Olanipekun told the court. “For your lordship cannot act on a speculative pattern, the president of the Court of Appeal is not a party and they want her to set aside her administrative decision? “The court has no jurisdiction to countenance the application how much more granting it. This is an attempt to truncate the judicial process.” Responding, Nwofor said there is no need to join the president of the Court of Appeal into the matter, but argued that her administrative decision could be challenged. “Facts admitted do not need further proof. I haven’t admitted that his client made representations unilaterally to the president of this court. I submit that it is absolutely unnecessary to drag the president of the court out of her office to face query in this matter. The application is unchallenged and should be granted,” he said. The three-man panel of judges led by Ibrahim Saulawa reserved ruling on the application


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