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Jubilation in Ondo as A-Court sacks Jimoh Ibrahim, okays Jegede

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The Court of Appeal, yesterday, re-instated Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, as the rightful candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the Ondo State governorship election billed for Saturday. 

In a unanimous judgment, the Justice Ibrahim Saulawa-led three-man Special Panel of the appellate court, vacated the June 29 judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to recognise Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP standard bearer.

With the verdict, which led to the continuation of jubilation for the second day by PDP members and supporters in Ondo, Jegede has 48 hours to woo the electorate as the INEC, which said it will obey the latest ruling, insisted that it will go ahead with the election on Saturday.

Jegede had approached the appellate court to challenge the high court verdict which ordered INEC to only relate with the Ali Modu-Sheriff faction of the PDP. Justice Abang had on October 14, also re-affirmed his decision, even as he warned the electoral body against accepting any candidate nominated by the Senator Ahmed Markafi-led National Caretaker Committee of the PDP.

Acting on the strength of the order, INEC, promptly removed Jegede’s name from the list of candidates for the Ondo governorship poll and replaced it with Mr. Ibrahim. Eyitayo Jegede and Jimoh Ibrahim However, the appeal court, yesterday, overturned the high court and returned Jegede as the PDP candidate.

The decision drew plaudits from a  host of eminent Nigerians.  Among those who spoke on the ruling, yesterday, were Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Governors Ayo Fayose (Ekiti) and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, Mr Emeka Etiaba, SAN, Mr. Babatunde Fashanu, SAN, and Mr. Kingsley Kuku. Others included the Transition Monitoring Group, TMG and the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF.

The verdict In its verdict, yesterday, the appellate court, held that Justice Abang’s refusal to grant fair hearing to Jegede “rendered the entire proceedings before his court a nullity” because “indeed, it is obvious from the records that the appellant’s name had been duly published as the governorship candidate of the 11th respondent (PDP) for the November 26 Ondo governorship election.”

It held that the lower court was in grievous error when it ordered the publication of Ibrahim’s name. It said the decision of the high court was in total breach of the provision of Section 36 of the 1999 constitution, which it said forbade any court from denying fair hearing to a party likely to be affected by final decision of the court.

Justice Saulawa said the action of the court violated the legal doctrine of audi altarem partem (listen to the other side), adding that “the tenets of natural Justice entail that a party ought to be heard prior to determination of case against them.” The appellate court also noted that Justice Abang ordered INEC to “immediately” recognise Mr. Ibrahim who was never a party in the suit that culminated to both the June 29 and October 14 judgments.

“The Court below had no jurisdictional competence to make such order. I have no restriction in the circumstance in resolving the second issue equally in favour of the appellant”. It said that Justice Abang “unilaterally”, raised issues that were not included by the plaintiffs, an action it said amounted to “a violent attitudinal disposition to the rule of law”.

Besides, the court said the primary election that was conducted by the Ondo State chapter of the PDP loyal to Modu-Sheriff, which produced Mr. Ibrahim, was a nullity. It said the law was very clear on which organ of a party should conduct governorship primary elections.

“It is worth reiterating at this point that any primary election by state chapter of a party, be it the PDP or any other party, is undoubtedly, in the eye of the law, an illegal contraption that carries with it no legal or equitable right at all. It is in its entirety a nullity”, the appellate court held. Prior to delivery of the judgment, Justice Saulawa, said the panel was at a time, “subjected to a very intimidating and brow-beating treatment by counsel to  the respondents.

” “Most regrettably, the respondents have deemed it expedient to shoot themselves on the foot. Instead of adhering to the wise counsel of the Court to file brief within the time limit, even the extra day that was granted to them, they refused to do so. The consequences of the respondents failing to file their brief by virtue of Order 18 of the Court of Appeal Rules is very obvious and we have made it clear in our judgment.

” Justice Saulawa noted that instead of filing their brief of argument, the respondents insisted that the appellate court had lost its jurisdiction to entertain Jegede’s suit by virtue of the appeal they lodged at the Supreme Court.

“I have most critically appraised the preliminary objection by Nwufor, SAN, and I found that it is most grossly lacking in merit and it is accordingly dismissed. Having effectively dealt with the preliminary objection, I now proceed to determine the appeal on its merit.

” The Appeal on its merit The court noted that Jegede filed his appeal on November 11, which raised seven issues for determination. The issues included whether it was proper for the high court to order INEC to jettison Jegede’s name after he had already been nominated by the PDP and his name published. Olanipekun argued that the high court lacked jurisdiction to determine who should be the candidate of a political party.

Relying on decided case-law in Lado vs CPC, Olanipekun, stressed that the issue of nomination of candidates for an election is a domestic affair of a political party which no court has the jurisdiction to meddle into. He said Justice Abang was wrong when he held that he had the requisite jurisdiction to determine the matter. The appellate court, in arriving at its decision, said it was necessary that it determined whether or not the appellant was denied fair hearing by the lower court. It consequently resolved all the seven issues in Jegede’s favour.

“There is no gain saying that this appeal is grossly meritorious and is hereby allowed.” The appellate court held that Justice Abang turned himself into “Father Christmas”, by granting reliefs that were not sought by the plaintiffs. “It is long abiding principle that a court cannot abide by reliefs not sought by parties. Ruling of the Court below delivered on October 14 is hereby set aside.” The court also awarded N20, 000 cost in Jegede’s favour.

Similarly, the appellate court, in a separate judgment delivered by Justice Mbaba, allowed the appeal lodged by Senators Ahmed Markarfi and Ben Obi on the same grounds that they were denied fair hearing by the lower court. Justice Mbaba described the lower court’s verdict as “a fraud”, saying “Justice is only meaningful when it is done within perimeters of the law.

” “The proceeding at the lower court was in my view a fraud, intended to defraud the appellants. It seemed to have been arranged by the same parties who arranged themselves into both plaintiffs and respondents. It is most unfortunate that the trial court appeared to be a willing tool to the attainment of this ignoble goal.

” It said that “common sense and dictates of Justice”, should have prevailed on the lower court to join the Markarfi-led National Working Committee of the PDP, which is also laying claim to the leadership of the party, as parties to the proceeding that led to the June 29 verdict.

The panel, therefore, set-aside what it termed “the most turbulent and controversial judgment of the lower court”, even as it awarded N100, 000 cost against the respondents. We ‘ll obey A’Court order, no shift in poll date – INEC The electoral umpire responded promptly to the ruling, saying that it will return Jegede’s name as the PDP candidate and remove that of Jimoh Ibrahim.

However, INEC said it would not shift the date of the election as being clamoured by many stakeholders. The commission’s Director in charge of Voter Education, Publicity, Civil Society and Gender Liaison, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzi, told Vanguard that the decision of the appeal court is in line with INEC’s earlier stance as to the authentic candidate of the party.

“Of course, we will comply. This is in consonance with our earlier stand as to the rightful PDP candidate. So, (it) did not come to INEC as a surprise. No shift in the election”, he said. The Makarfi-led faction of the PDP as well as a coalition of 16 political parties had called for the postponement of the polls citing the crisis in the PDP.

Vanguard checks revealed that while the electoral act provides that the name of candidates must be displayed in their constituencies within seven days before the election, Section 44. (1) however, states that; “each political party may by notice in writing addressed to the Electoral Polling Agents Officer of the Local Government or Area Council, appoint a person to attend at each polling unit and collation centre in the Local Government or Area Council for which it has candidate and the notice shall set out the name and address of the polling agent and be given to the Electoral Officer at least 7 days before the date fixed for the election.” Jubilation continues in Ondo The appeal court decision led to continuation of celebration, for the second day, in Ondo State.

The jubilation started on Tuesday following the Supreme Court ruling that the appeal court should give its verdict on the Ondo PDP governorship ticket dispute. PDP leaders led crowds of dancing supporters across the state. Report said that the convoy of Mrs Olukemi Mimiko, wife of the state governor, Segun Mimiko ran into the crowd of dancing PDP supporters at the popular Oja Oba market and had no choice than to join them by coming down from the vehicle.

Major streets in Akure, the state capital were packed with supporters of Jegede who trooped out immediately the judgment was delivered. There was traffic gridlock on most roads as motorists joined in the celebration. Judiciary remains bastion of democracy – Jegede Reacting to the victory, Eyitayo Jegede, in a statement he personally signed said:  “Beloved people of Ondo State and believers in our noble cause, there is no doubt that the past few weeks have been very challenging and trying times for us as we contended with anti-democratic and evil forces, who tried to subvert the will of God and the mandate of the people freely given to us.

“It was tortuous journey that tested our faith in God and our conviction in the refreshingly different days ahead of us as we were taunted and harassed by hired propagandist while we tenaciously forged ahead. “We submitted our grievances to the court despite the contraband and manipulation of those, who are opposed to democracy.

We insisted we would explore all legal means in our avowed belief in the rule of law and judiciary. “Today our mouth is filled with laughter and heart with praise, our resilience paid off and our conviction to this doggedness of purpose has made our case another judicial precedence in the country.  We are grateful to the judiciary for remaining the bastion of democratic process and refusing to be blackmailed, brow-beaten and intimidated by those who do not mean well for our state and nation.

” I remain PDP candidate – Jimoh Ibrahim ….Awaits Supreme Court ruling today Reacting to the verdict, which he described as ‘’one day ruling’’, Jimoh Ibrahim, insisted, yesterday, that he remains the PDP candidate until the Supreme Court, which will sit today rules otherwise.

“I have read the decision of the Court of Appeal delivered today (yesterday) but we have nothing to lose as the Supreme Court sits on same case tomorrow,” an unruffled Ibrahim said. “We shall get justice at the Supreme Court and if PDP wins Saturday’s election, we shall have our four-year mandate to rule Ondo State.

“Let me advise the good people of Ondo State and my supporters nationwide not to abuse anyone or fight over this one day ruling which was paid for… “ Mimiko will not succeed himself with Jegede. This is too sure as we continue with our work and remain in our great party, PDP. I love the great people of Ondo State and I thank you all for your continuous support.” Mimiko urges INEC to shift poll To ensure equity and fairness to Jegede, Governor Mimiko has called on the INEC to postpone the poll.

Speaking with newsmen at the Akure airport on arrival from  Abuja, he said INEC had no logical reason for substituting Jegede’s name and thus should shift the election. His words: “If Jegede has to contest the election in two days time, there are issues that have to be settled under the Electoral Act. The issue of the fact that his name should be pasted within a time frame, issue of him submitting the names of his party agents, issue of his fundamental  rights, his right to canvass for votes in well defined campaigns.

Has he not been deprived of all of these? “Is there a remedy? That is the next question under the electoral act, the election can take place any time within 30 days before my administration ends. This administration ends February  24, 2017. So  this election can take place any time on or before January 24.

Will anybody in good conscience and all morality be comfortable to say that they have done justice to Eyitayo Jegede if he has to contest the election in two days time?” Justice has been served – PDP Reacting, the PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said justice has been served but insisted that INEC should postpone the election to allow Jegede to campaign.

The statement read in part: ‘’The judgment delivered by the Justice Saulawa-led Appeal Court Panel which returned the validly elected candidate of our party, to his rightful place was expected because we were sure that the travesty of justice carried out at the lower court would in any sane society, not stand the test of time… “We hope in all sincerity that the Independent National Electoral Commission, which was a major player in the illegal substitution of our candidate, a decision rightfully reversed today by the Appeal Court, will toe the line of dignity and fairness by heeding the call for the postponement of the election to enable our candidate tell the people of the state his programmes for them through campaigns. This is the least honourable thing the electoral umpire can do to show that it’s unbiased in this matter.

’ Okowa hails ruling, S/Court intervention Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, yesterday, hailed the court of appeal ruling and described it as a triumph of good over political bitterness aided by selfish interests.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Charles Aniagwu, the governor commended the Supreme Court for intervening and asking the appeal to court to deliver its ruling. , said:  “I commend the Court of Appeal in Abuja for their unanimous judgment, which restored Eyitayo Jegede as the candidate of our party.

This ruling is very significant because the will of the people, clearly expressed, cannot be thwarted by a clique being propelled by political bitterness and selfish interests they want to promote.

’ Judgment commendable but INEC undermined PDP – Fayose On his part, Governor Fayose of Ekiti, also saluted the verdict. However, he called for the postponement of the election alleging that the INEC and APC had succeeded in undermining the strength of the PDP  through unwarranted judicial impediment. Fayose said: “The judgment shouldn’t have been otherwise, because you can’t cover the truth. I have said it ab initio that charlatans in the PDP are colluding with INEC and APC to undermine our party. “INEC has no reason in the first instance to change Jegede’s name.

So, this mistake was caused by INEC. It was an INEC making and the best way is for the election to be postponed.” It’s commendable – Ekweremadu Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, hailed the decision of the Court of Appeal. Ekweremadu, in a statement by his Special Adviser (Media), Mr. Uche Anichukwu, described the verdict of the appellate court as “just, courageous, and expeditious” and commended the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal for their promptness in handling the matter, noting that democracy could only thrive where there is respect for the rule of law.

PDP is back—Fani-Kayode In his reaction, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode said: ‘’Congratulations to my brothers Eyitayo Jegede and Governor Segun Mimiko and to our National Chairman Senator Ahmed Makarfi and our great party the PDP in our historic victory at the Court of Appeal today.” It’s sound judgment – Etiaba Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN, said:  “The judgment is a sound judgment Now I expect the INEC to postpone the governorship election to accommodate Jegede since they were able to do that in Edo State for an unverifiable reason.  

A court of law does not make a declaration in vain. So, INEC, in the interest of fair play and justice should postpone the election to give effect to the judgment, otherwise, Jegede would have been denied a fair playing ground to present himself for the governorship poll.” INEC should postpone election – Fashanu, SAN Mr. Babatunde Fashanu, SAN, said:  “My position is for the INEC to postpone the election.

The body has the power to do so according to the electoral act. Since the election is just few days away, definitely several things have to change regarding the conduct of the poll. It can postpone the election to such a time that will still fall within the time it ought to conduct the election.” Arewa youths call for shift Northern youths under the umbrella of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF,  cautioned INEC against the conduct of the election on Saturday saying, “it would amount to a misadventure.

” Addressing a press conference, yesterday, the youths advised INEC to shift the election as a result of the tension created by the constitutional crisis pervading the atmosphere in the state. The Forum President, Alhaji Shettima Usman Yerima, who addressed the conference, warned that holding the election in a tensed atmosphere could result in avoidable national calamity. TMG opposes shift, calls for review of electoral process However, the Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, disagreed with calls for shift, saying postponement will amount to waste of arrangements made by INEC and security agencies. Speaking at a press briefing ahead of Saturday’s election, Chairperson, TMG, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi and Coordinator, National Association for Peaceful Elections in Nigeria, NAPEN, advised that pre-election cases should be completed before the release of names of political parties’ candidates by the INEC. “The whole game in Ondo has also put voters at the receiving end.

There is the likelihood of voters’ apathy during the election because voters might not likely want to vote if the candidate they want to vote for is not on the ballot paper.” Ondo PDP hail Judiciary Reacting to the victory, the Ondo PDP in a statement by its Director of Publicity, Mr.  Ayo Fadaka, said: “We use this opportunity to appreciate the President of the Court of Appeal and the the Judges who sat on the matter for being professional and dedicated to their callings.  We also thank the Supreme Court judges who also sat on this case and did justice in the most dispassionate manner. We indeed confirm that the Judiciary asserted itself and firmly did justice.

’’ Also, former Special Adviser to the President on Amnesty Programmee, Kingsley Kuku  congratulated Jegede on his victory at the Court of Appeal. 


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