The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja Wednesday set aside the ruling of the Federal High Court which ordered the replacement of the name of Eyitayo Jegede with that of Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State.
The court resolved all seven issues raised in the appeal in favour of Jegede.
Jegede, who belongs to the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the PDP, had in his appeal challenged his replacement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), with Ibrahim of the Ali Modu Sheriff camp of the party as the governorship candidate for the election.
In a Judgement on Wednesday by the three-man special Appeal Court panel led by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, literally took Justice Okon Abang, a Federal High Court Judge and his judgment of October 14 that ordered INEC to replace Jegede’s name with that of Ibrahim, to the cleaners, with Saulawa describing the judgment “from the most learned Judge” as “controversial, inexperienced, indefensible and fraudulent”
The Appeal Court said principle of natural justice demands that all sides are given fair hearing and that Abang had no jurisdiction to order INEC order to publish Jimoh’s name as Ondo PDP candidate, saying Ibrahim’s so called Ibadan primaries was a sham according to constitutional provisions
The court awarded N50,000 cost against INEC for removal of Jegede’s name.
The appellate court also upturned Abang’s judgment that made the Sheriff led faction the authentic PDP in the six states in the Southwest.
The Court of Appeal thus ordered INEC to reinstate Jegede as the authentic PDP candidate in the November 26 governorship election in the state.
The appellate court held that the order of the Justice Okon Abang-led Federal High Court upon which INEC based its action was “violent attitudinal disposition to rule of law”.
The court noted that replacing Jegede with Ibrahim without hearing from him (Jegede), ‘was a breach of the principle of fair hearing
Justice Saulawa who read the lead judgment said, “Replacing Jegede with Ibrahim without hearing from Jegede, was breach of fair hearing.
“It is a gross abuse of section 36 (1) of the constitution, particularly the right to fair hearing.
“We set aside the highly misplaced; most fraudulent judgement on June 29.
The principle of natural justice requires that all parties must be heard before judgment is delivered,” Justice Saulawa rules
The court held that Abang acted as the plaintiff and respondent, when he adjudicated on a matter that was not before him, which made the judgment a nullity.
The Appeal Court also held that Justice Abang acted without jurisdiction when he made orders against those that were not parties before him.
The Appeal Court also nullified the primary said to have been conducted by the Biyi Poroye-led state executive of the Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the party which produced Ibrahim as the governorship candidate of the party in the state and upheld the Makarfi led faction as the authentic PDP in Southwest.
The court said, the Constitution was very clear on who should conduct primary for a party, saying it was national officers that are empowered to conduct primary and not state executive as was the case of the Sheriff-led faction in electing Ibrahim.
It described the primary as “illegal contraption” with “no legal effect or equitable remedy”, adding that the only valid primary was the one conducted by National Working Committee of any political party.
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, had authorised the Court of Appeal to rule on the conflict between Ibrahim and Jegede.
The apex court had refused to disband the Appeal Court panel as sought by Sheriff’s camp.
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 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 factional Chairman of the party in Ondo State, by Poroye, the Supreme Court, awarded a cost of N1million each to the three Justices of the appellate court on the three motions their names were mentioned.
Poroye and his group had joined the three appellate court Justices as 5th to 7th respondents in the appeal before the apex court.
Justice Onnoghen, who delivered the lead ruling, ordered that counsel to the appellants, Chief Beluolisa Nwofor (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 including Jegede.
Dragging Appeal Court Justices into the matter was wrong. 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 and 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.
Speaking shortly after the judgment Jegede said that he dedicated his victory at the Appeal Court to his supporters.
Jegede spoke to newsmen said by God’s willing, he would contest and win the election in the state, adding that he intends to serve the people of Ondo state.
“A man called me this morning from his hospital bed and told me he will stay alive to vote me”, he said.