Justice Ignatius Igwe Agube, a member of the new panel set up to hear appeals on the dispute over the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State on Friday said that the party was subjecting the judiciary to unnecessary headache.Justice Agube, who currently serves in the Owerri division of the Court of Appeal, was speaking in Abuja at the first sitting of the new panel constituted on November 2 by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa to replace the former panel led by Justice Jumai Sankey, which withdrew from the appeals on November 1.
He noted that the inability of members of the PDP to imbibe democratic tenets and conduct themselves in accordance with democratic norms was the reason why the judiciary was being constantly invited to resolve what ordinarily should have been internal issues of the party. The judge noted that the current crisis in the Ondo PDP, which resulted from the internal polarisation of the party, would have been avoided had members of the party allowed internal democracy.
“I have stressed this fact before now. I did so in Kwara and Yobe that there is need for the PDP to internalise democracy. If they had resolved their issues internally, they would not be here washing their dirty linen in public. Ordinarily; the court has no business resolving your internal disputes,” he said. Justice Agube’s intervention was informed by the open disagreement in court yesterday by some leaders of the two factions of the PDP over who should represent the party during proceedings.
While Adedayo Adeyeye and Ben Obi (from the Ahmed Makarfi faction) stood up and announced that they were representing the PDP, another set of people, including Cairo Ojougboh (from the Ali Modu Sheriff camp) also claimed to be representing the PDP, a development that infuriated Justice Agube. The panel headed by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa (Acting Presiding Justice of the Calabar division of the Court of Appeal) adjourned all pending applications in the appeals to November 7 for hearing. The panel adjourned to Monday despite requests by lawyers to the appellants, including Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Ahmed Raji (SAN) that their preliminary applications be heard promptly in view of the urgency required by the matter.
Olanipekun, lawyer to a former Attorney General of Ondo State and a contender to the PDP governorship ticket, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), had urged the court to promptly consider his client’s application for leave to appeal the decision of the Federal High Court, Abuja on the issue. He said the matters are election related, which required expeditious hearing. Respondents’ lawyers, including Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN) said there was no urgency in the cases because they were pre-election matters which did not require any special panel to be heard.
Nwofor argued that if the court must conduct any further proceedings in the cases, it must first determine the motion on notice he filed for his client on November 3, 2016, which queried the jurisdiction of the new panel to sit over the appeals. In the motion filed on behalf of members of state executive of PDP in the six South-west states (loyal to Ali Modu Sheriff), the court is asked to reverse the decision by its President, Justice Bulkachuwa to constitute the fresh panel.
They also asked the court to disband the panel on the grounds that it was allegedly constituted in breach of the applicant’ right to fair hearing guaranteed under Section 36 of the Constitution. The applicants 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 14th October 2016 in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/395/2016) – filed by Eyitayo Jegede (factional PDP candidate of the Ondo 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 Biyi 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 Biyi Poroye and 9 others and CA/A/551C/2016 filed by Eyitayo Jegede against Prince Biyi 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.