Abuja – The new Special Court of Appeal Penal Panel constituted to resolve all appeals in the Ondo State 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 Nov.2 following accusation of fraud against the members.
The two other justices that made up the panel were Igwe Aguba, and George Mbaba.
Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, Sen. Ben Obi, Biyi Poroyo, Eyitayo Jegede, and Jimoh Ibrahim were parties in the matter.
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The Executive of PDP South West Zone, 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 session, 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 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 disputes.
Nwafor submitted that the panel had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter, adding that its clients were not served the 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 the members of the panel 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, Mr Godswill Mrakpo, Counsel to the Sheriff-led faction, also asked the court to disband the panel forthwith.
Mrakpo alleged that the panel was set up in breach of the applicant’ right to fair hearing guaranteed under Section 36 of the Constitution.
According to the appellants, the court lack 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.
However, 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 the no counter-affidavit was filed challenging the propriety of the motion, Olanipekun said there was nothing to counter.
Olanikpekun said the motion was contrived by the applicant and counsel to 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 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 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 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 facts submitted needed no proof, adding that Olanipekun agreed to the fact in 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 Returns to Jimoh Ibrahim.
Olanipekun urged the court to grant expeditious hearing to the application because the matter required urgent attention.
According to him, the development is clear attempt to rob his client of his legitimate right, having emerged as the party governorship candidate from a primary conducted in Akure.
The application was opposed by counsel to Sheriff-led PDP faction, South-west PDP and Chairman of Ondo PDP, Poroye. (NAN)