The Supreme Court has dismissed the motion to set aside judgments and to disqualify Judges of the Appeal Court panel on Ondo PDP matters brought by Prince Biyi Poroye.
The five-panel of Justices including Tanko Mohammed, Kudirat Keke-Ekun, Kumai Akaahs, Ejembi Eko led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, said Poroye’s application lacked merit.
The apex court went ahead to award a punitive cost of N1m to each of the Justices of the panel on each of the three motions where their names were mentioned (to be paid personally by Poroye’s counsel, Beluolisa Nwofor), amounting to N9m and another N500,000 cost to each of the respondents, excluding the three Justices, in the matter.
Poroye had asked the apex court to set aside the judgment that gave Eyitayo Jegede ground to appeal judgment of a Federal High Court, Abuja.
The Appeal Court had ruled on November 16 that Jegede has grounds to appeal Justice Okon Abang’s judgment that had his name removed as the Ondo Peoples Democratic Party candidate in the November 26 governorship election.
Counsel to Poroye had also urged the Supreme Court to invoke its disciplinary power to set aside that judgement by the Appeal Court and disqualify the judges of the special panel for its continued sitting despite being told that an appeal had been entered at the Supreme Court.
After listening to arguments from Nwofor and Chief Wole Olanipekun, counsel to Jegede, the five-man Justices of the Supreme Court led by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, had stood down the matter for a while to give judgment.
In dismissing the case, Justice Onnoghen said if the applicant is allowed to continue with such prank, there will be no justice in the country.
According to the apex court in a unanimous ruling, read by Onnoghen said: “We have carefully gone all the appeals, I have observed that counsel for the applicant, requesting for withdrawal of judges of the panel and of stay of proceedings has no ground. We agreed with Wole Olanipekun (counsel to Eyitayo Jegede) that the withdrawal of stay of proceedings which this application is predicated upon, which was dismissed this morning, rendered the motion a mere academic exetcise.
“The panel of judges of lower court were made party to the motion. It is observed that joining Judges in a matter in discharge of judicial duty when they have immunity amount to scandising and intimidation of the Appeal Court Judges.
“Judges cannot be sued individually or collectively in regards to their duty”, he said.
Earlier, Nwofor had argued that for going ahead to sit and pass judgments despite an appeal against the panel was pending at the Supreme Court amounted to disregard for the apex court and must be punished for it.
However, the apex court wanted Nwofor to satisfy the court that it has jurisdiction to invoke such power.
Court: What is the value of the motion to discipline? Which part of the Constitution do we rely on to discipline the Judges?
Nwofor: They refused to heed our plea that the matter before them was already before the Supreme Court. This was in total violation and flagrant disregard to the our submission and hierarchy to the judiciary.
“Parallel proceedings is when an appeal has been entered and pending at the Supreme Court and would still go ahead to the matter. Order 8 rule 11 of this court, totally forbids such.
“There is no dispute that offending proceedings of November 16 in disregard to pending appeal at the Supreme Court”, he argued.
But Olanipekun countered, saying the withdrawal of the motion of stay of proceedings by the applicant and subsequently dismissed by the court earlier has rendered his argument a mere academic exercise.
Olanipekun noted the applicant was out to frustrate, scandalise and denigrate the judges.
He said judges were immund against being sued in course of their duty and therefore the application, joining Judges as parties was a nonentity.
At a point Onnoghen was visibly angered by the delayed tactics of the applicant. He vented his anger on the numbers of appeals emanating from one ruling.
He said the several appeals were to confuse and frustrate the judiciary, and it will rub off on all. “I blame the judiciary for it”, he said
He continued: “The day the rule of law collapses, that will be the end of the society and the end of democracy.”
Another member of the panel, Mohammed Tanko, speaking on one of the reliefs sought by the applicant, said:”Tell us where in the constitution why we should punish those Justices. You can’t box the lower court into a corner and be asking the Supreme Court for withdrawal of motions.
“Will angels come down to adjudicate your case after you blackmailed the first panel and also raised eyebrow against the second panel?”
The substantive appeal challenging the Appeal Court ruling in granting Jegede leave to be joined as interested party to challenge the Abang’s judgment of October 14 comes up on November 24.