The Court of Appeal, Abuja on Wednesday removed Jimoh Ibrahim as candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 26 November election in Ondo State.
Eyitayo Jegede, candidate of the Ahmed Makarfi faction of the party was relisted to face other governorship hopefuls, Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), and 25 others.
Justice Ibrahim Saulaawa, who led two other Justices in a unanimous decision held that the Federal High Court erred in its October 14 ruling.
Justice Okon Abang had, in that ruling substituted Jegede’s name with Jimoh Ibrahim as the governorship candidate of the party.
Saulaawa said the law forbade the trial court or any other court from denying interested parties fair hearing.
He also held that the court equally erred when it ordered INEC to remove the name of the appellant from its nomination register.
The Judge said, Ibrahim who benefited from that ‘strange order’ was never a party in the suit.
“Justice Okon Abang should know that the Constitution and the Electoral Act empower only the national leadership of political parties to nominate political candidates.
The trial judge on his own, without allowing parties to present their arguments went ahead to deliver that ruling.
There is no gainsaying that the extant appeal is meritorious and therefore allowed.
Consequently, the October 14 judgment ruling of the trial court is hereby set aside and the appellant,” he said.
The appellate court on November 10 granted Jegede leave to appeal the decision of the Federal High Court Abuja.
On which group is the authentic leader of the party, Justice George Mbaba described the process that led to the June 29 judgment as a ‘fraud’.
Mbaba said the trial court breached Section 36 (1) of the Constitution by denying the Ahmed Makarfi Caretaker committee right of fair hearing.
The judge therefore held that the judgment of the lower court delivered on June 29 remained void and a nullity.
That judgment had affirmed the Sheriff-faction of the PDP as the authentic leadership of the party.
“With this development, all actions taken by the Sheriff-faction, including the selection of Jimoh Ibrahim as candidate of the party remain illegal and with no effect,” he said.
In his earlier submission, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), counsel to Jegede and the Ahmed Makarfi-faction had prayed the court to set aside the ruling of the lower court, adding that it was given in bad light.
Olanipekun had also said the court should order the reinstatement of his client as the authentic candidate of the party to contest the election.
According to him, Jegede is the candidate that emerged from the party’s primary conducted in Akure.
He had argued further that Ibrahim’s name was submitted and immediately recognised by INEC following the ruling of the lower court.
“My Lords I want the court to take judicial notice of the fact that my client was affected by a decision of trial court even though he was not enlisted as a party. All our attempts for him to be joined as an interested party failed at that level, leaving us with no option but to approach this court,” he said.
Also, Olanipekun had urged the court to reinstate the Makarfi-led Caretaker committee as the authentic leadership of the party.
He said the lower court erred in law when it held that Sheriff, the former Acting National Chairman of the party remained the authentic leader.
According to him, Sheriff should not have claimed such position following the decision of the National Working Committee (NEC) of the party to set the caretaker committee.
Olanipekun submitted that Sheriff’s tenure as the leader of the party had expired, adding that he could not have had the right to conduct the Ondo PDP governorship primary.
However, Beloulisa Nwofor (SAN), counsel to Biyi Poroye, Chairman of the Ondo State Chapter of PDP and eight others, told the court that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
He had announced to the court that the November 10 ruling that gave leave of the court to Jegede to appeal the nomination of Ibrahim was appealed against at the Supreme Court.
He submitted that the panel should refrain from further action on the matter, adding that doing the contrary would amount to the violation of the constitution, the rules of the court as well as the oath of judicial office.
The Supreme Court on November 22 dismissed the interlocutory motion filed by Nwofor on behalf of his clients.
Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria went on to restore the jurisdiction to the Court of Appeal to determine all appeals arising from the PDP leadership dispute.
The apex court held that all 12 out of the 14 motions and appeals brought by Sheriff-faction were frivolous as they were not supported by the records of the court of appeal.
The apex court further held that it decision to dismiss those appeals was predicated on the fact that all issues raised therein were not proved.
The Sheriff-faction of the party had asked the apex court to set aside the proceedings of the special panel.
It also urged the court to invoke its power to disband the panel following allegation of disregard to hierarchy of court leveled against the three justices.
The appeal court had on October 18, suspended its judgment pending the decision of the apex court.
Nwofor, later filed an alternative objection on Olanipekun’s submissions, adding that the appellants breached the rules guiding filing of appeals.
He argued that the appellants ought not to have been allowed to appeal judgment out of time.
Nwofor argued that the appellants were interlopers, adding that they were not parties in the matter at the trial court.
He said they also approached the court after three months of the delivery of the judgment.
Godswill Mrakpo, counsel to Sheriff-faction of the PDP, had aligned with arguments canvassed by Nwofor, as according to him, proceedings by the panel after notice of stay is served should remain null and void.
The presiding judge, however, insisted that the extant appeals earlier argued by Olanipekun sufficed.
Sheriff, Makarfi, Obi and Jegede were the parties in the matter.
The Executive of PDP South West Zone and Ondo State Executive members of the party were also listed as parties.
Speaking to newsmen after the court’s session, Jegede said the development would help to nurture the country’s fragile democracy.
On his part, Makarfi said the pronouncement of the appellate court had ended the reign of darkness in PDP.