Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) factional leader Ahmed Makarfi and Ben Obi as well as the party’s substituted governorship candidate in Ondo State, Eyitayo Jegede, got a major victory yesterday at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
The court, in two unanimous rulings by a three-man panel, upheld the applications by Makarfi, Obi (Chairman and Secretary of the PDP Caretaker Committee) and Jegede for leave to appeal against the June 29, 2016 judgment and October 14, 2016 ruling of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Justice Abang had, in the judgment of June 29, recognised the Ali Modu Sheriff leadership of the PDP as the authentic body to take decisions for the party.
In the October 14 post-judgment ruling, Justice Abang ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept Jimoh Ibrahim (produced by the leadership of the party in Ondo, supported by the Sheriff faction) in place of Jegede, who was produced by the Markefi faction.
Justice Ibrahim Saulawa (who led the panel) said in the lead ruling in the application by Jegede that he had satisfied the court that he was a necessary party to the case even when he was not a party at the trial court.
Justice Saulawa held that under Order 7 Rule 3 of the Court of Appeal Rule an interested party to a judgment, who was not a party at the trial court, is allowed to apply to the appellate court for leave to appeal if such an application had been rejected by the lower court.
He noted that in this case, since the trial court had reject Jegede’s application for leave to appeal, he was right to have filed a similar application again before the Court of Appeal within the prescribed 15 days.
As against the argument by the lawyer to factional Chairman of PDP in Ondo State, Biyi Poroye and other members of his executive, Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN) that the June 29 judgment was a consent one, the court held otherwise.
The court held that since Jegede was not a party at the trial court, he could not have consented to the judgment. It noted that by the record of the court, INEC that was a party at the trial court, did not consent to the judgment.
“I am satisfied that there are reasonable grounds duly established by the applicant (Jegede) that he be given the opportunity to appeal the judgment.
“The applicant has duly established that he is the person aggrieved by the decision of the court below, having won the primary of the party,” Justice Saulawa said.
He granted that application, deemed the notice of appeal and record of proceedings already compiled by Jegede as properly filed and compiled.
The court granted an order departing from its rule and abridged the time within which parties could file their processes.
It granted the appellant (Jegede) 24 hours within which to file his brief or argument and three days to the respondents to file their brief.
The ruling delivered in the application by Jegede was adopted in the similar applications by Makarfi and Obi.
In an earlier ruling, the court refused an application by Poroye and others for the disbandment of the fresh panel set up to hear all the appeals on the dispute over the party’s candidate.
The court held that the decision to set up a special panel to promptly determine the appeals was within the administrative powers of the Court of Appeal President, which cannot be challenged by anyone.
Other members of the panel – Justice Ignatius Igwe Agube and Ita Godwin Mbaba agreed with the lead decisions by Justice Saulawa.