TVC E. The newly constituted panel by the President, Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to preside over all the appeals relating to Ondo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), began sitting yesterday.
The three-man panel headed by Justice Ibrahim Salauwa, has, however, adjourned hearings on the matter to November 7, after identifying all the processes filed by parties in the matter.
The three-member panel led by Justice Salauwa was set up to take over from Justice Jummai Sankey’s panel, which disqualified itself last week following allegations of bribery by some parties in the case.
At the resumed sitting yesterday, Counsel to Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, Chief Wole Olanikpekun (SAN) prayed the leave of court to appeal the judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court.
He also urged the court to grant expeditious hearing to the application considering the fact that the matter required urgent attention.
But the lead Counsel to Prince Biyi Poroye, B.E.I. Ngwufor (SAN) had drawn the attention of the court to a motion filed on November 3, challenging the composition of a special panel.
Ngwufor told the court to determine his motion before that of Jegede since it was challenging the jurisdiction of the court.In his submissions, Counsel to the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction of the PDP, Godswill Mrakpo told the court that neither the application by Jegede nor the motion filed by Ngwufor were ripe for hearing.
He informed the court that the processes in both applications were only served on him on Thursday evening, noting that he needed time to file his response to them.But it was the application brought by the Counsel representing the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the PDP, Ahmed Raji (SAN) that attracted controversy in the court.
The argument, which ensued between Raji and another counsel representing the Sheriff faction of the PDP, Raphael Oluyode, was who has the authority to represent the Party in court.
While Oluyode informed the court that there was no appeal from the party against the judgment of Justice Abang, Raji insisted that he has the authority to appeal against the judgment of the trial court.
Oluyode also drew the attention of the court to a motion seeking to strike out the purported appeal by the Makarfi-led faction of the party. He urged the court to invoke Order 11, Rule Five of the Court of Appeal Rule, to strike out the appeal.
But Raji had countered Oluyode’s submissions, when he insisted that there was a competent appeal before the court.Moved by the protracted argument between the two opposing groups, a member of the panel, Justice Ignatius I Aguba, slammed the PDP for its failure to internalize democracy within the party.
Justice Aguba who said he could be quoted said: “I feel sorry for our country. I feel sorry for the legal profession. There is need for PDP to internalize democracy.“If the party had done that; it would not have been passing through this. The party has been factionalized and then come before us to wash its dirty linings in court.
“Go and put your house in order and stop bordering the court,” he said.Meanwhile, members of state executive of the PDP in six South West states (loyal to Ali Modu Sheriff) led by Biyi Poroye, factional Chairman of the Ondo PDP, have asked the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision by its President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa to constitute a fresh panel to hear appeals relating to the dispute.
In a motion filed by Godswill Mrakpo, they also asked the court to disband the panel comprising of Justices Ibrahim Salauwa, Ignatius Igwe Aguba and George Mbaba, allegedly set up in breach of the applicant’s right to fair hearing guaranteed under Section 36 of the Constitution.
Poroye and others 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.