By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Supreme Court, Tuesday, gave the Justice Ibrahim Saulawa-led panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja the nod to deliver judgment on dispute over who should be the flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the Ondo governorship election billed for November 26.
The apex court, in a unanimous ruling by a five-man panel of Justices led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, declined to disband the the three-man Special Panel constituted by President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to resolve the dispute.
Aside dismissing motions to stay proceedings of the appellate court, filed by six chieftains of the PDP in the South West led by Chairman of the party in Ondo State, Prince Biyi Poroye, the Supreme Court, awarded a cost of N1million each to the three Justices of the appellate court.
Poroye and his group had joined the three appellate court Justices, Salauwa, Igwe Aguba and George Mbaba, as 5th to 7th Respondents in the appeal before the apex court.
The Acting CJN, Justice Onnoghen who delivered the lead ruling, ordered that counsel to the appellants, Chief Beluolisa Nwufor, SAN, should personally pay the cost from his pocket.
The apex court further ordered the appellants to pay N500, 000 cost to the four other Respondents in the matter among whom included a contender for the PDP governorship ticket, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN.
Justice Onnoghen held that it was wrong for Poroye and his group to drag the appellate court Justices into the matter knowing that they were only carrying out a judicial duty that was duly assigned to them.
“The 6th to 7th Respondents who are Justices of the Court of Appeal were constituted by appropriate authority to hear and determine the case were not parties before the lower court and whatever they did was in their official capacity as judicial officers”, Justice Onnoghen noted.
He stressed that joining them as Respondents in the matter “was not only an attempt to intimidate and scandalise the judiciary, but to put it in a mild way, an action in bad faith”.
Justice Onnoghen also noted that the appellants (Poroye and his group), had also petitioned a previous panel of Justices of the appellate court that handled the case.
“If the applicants are allowed to continue with this prank, there will be no end in sight and it will not augur well. In the circumstance, there is no merit in this appeal and it is hereby dismissed”.
While concurring with the lead ruling, another member of the apex court panel, Justice Kumai Akaahs, held that action of the appellants was “capable of bringing anarchy”.
However, the apex court panel fixed Thursday to hear the substantive appeal challenging leave that was granted to Jegede to appeal the June 29 judgement of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja which recognised Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as flag-bearer of the PDP for the November 26 governorship poll in Ondo State.