……says motion to disband fresh panel mischievous
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, Thursday, declined to disband the fresh panel constituted to resolve dispute over the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Ondo State.
In a unanimous decision, the Justice Ibrahim Salauwa-led three-man panel, held that the application which was filed by six chieftains of the PDP in the South West States, grossly lacked merit.
Justice Salauwa who read the lead ruling, maintained that the setting up of a special panel by President of the Court of Appeal, PCA, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to settle the dispute, did not in anyway breach the respondents’ right to fair hearing.
He noted that it was owing to bribery allegation by the same respondents that a previous three-man panel of Justices that started the matter, disqualified itself and the new panel constituted.
Describing the renewed move to also disband the fresh panel as “highly mischievous”, the appellate court said it has a constitutional duty to do justice in the matter.
It stressed that the decision to set up the special panel to seat and determine the appeal was by administrative fiat of the PCA, saying such decision did not come within the contemplation of section 318 of the Constitution.
“The PCA has not been made a party to this suit, yet the respondents in their own wisdom, want her decision to be set aside”, Justice Salauwa noted.
“This court has a duty to take judicial notice of the unfortunate circumstances that led to recusal of the erstwhile panel. Granting the instant application will tantamount to this court unwittingly abdicating its most fundamental constitutional duty under section 240 of the 1999 Constitution.
“We have come to the most inevitable conclusion that this application is grossly devoid of merit. It is such that ought not be allowed to see the light of the day. It must be dismissed and I accordingly dismiss same”.
In his own ruling, another member of the panel, Justice Igwe Aguba, said the application was “strange and absurd”, coming from the same respondents that accused the previous panel of collecting N250million bribe from Governors Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
“This application is not only ungrantable, it constitutes a gross abuse of the court process especially considering that it was hinged on frivolous ground of breach of fair hearing”.
He insisted that the PCA does not need the consent of any of the parties to constitute a panel to hear an appeal lodged before the court.
“This application is mischievous and constitute a cog to the wheel of Justice”, he held.
Meanwhile, in a separate ruling, the appellate court declined to hands-off the case brought before it by one of the contenders for the governorship ticket, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN.
The court said it was satisfied that Jegede has a reasonable ground to appeal against the June 29 and October 14 decisions of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to recognise Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as the authentic flag-bearer of the PDP for the November 26 gubernatorial poll in Ondo state.
“I am satisfied that there are reasonable grounds, duly established on why the applicant (Jegede) should be given the right to appeal.
“In the instant case, it is so obvious from processes made available before this court that the applicant is a person having an interest in the matter”, Justice Salauwa held.
He said that Jegede ought to have been made a party at the high court, adding that he has established that he is a person aggrieved by decision of the court below having emerged winner of primary election of the party in Ondo State.
The court held that Jegede’s application to be joined in the matter as an interested party was not frivolous.