The special panel of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has sacked business mogul, Jimoh Ibrahim, as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State.
The court upheld the nomination of Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, as the authentic candidate of the PDP for the election.
The PDP said the ruling has put it on the path to victory.
The appellate court had in its ruling yesterday, described the judgement delivered by Justice Okon Abang, which ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise Ibrahim as the candidate of the party in the election, as fraudulent.
It also set aside the judgement which recognised the Ondo State executive council of the PDP led by Prince Biyi Poroye.
Ibrahim had emerged through primary election conducted by the Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the party, while Eyitayo Jegede emerged from the Ahmed Makarfi faction.
In a unanimous judgment yesterday, the special panel, led by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, set aside the June 29 judgement of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, which directed INEC to recognise Ibrahim as the PDP candidate for the November 26 election.
Not satisfied with the judgement which was given without joining him as a party, Jegede had approached the appellate court to challenge the said judgement.
He also challenged another judgement of Justice Abang which ordered INEC to only relate with the Ali Modu-Sheriff faction of the PDP.
Justice Abang had, on October 14, warned the electoral body against accepting any candidate nominated by the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the PDP.
But the appellate court, in its judgement, held that Justice Abang’s refusal to grant fair hearing to Jegede rendered the entire proceedings before his court a nullity.
The appellate court further held that the lower court was in grievous error when it ordered the publication of Ibrahim’s name “when, 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 further held that 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 further held that the action of the court violated the legal doctrine of audi altarem partem.
“The tenets of natural justice entails that a party ought to be heard prior to the determination of case against them,” he said.
The court also described as fraudulent, Justice Abang’s order to INEC to “immediately” recognise Ibrahim who was never a party in the suit that culminated in both the June 29 and October 14 judgements.
“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,” he said.
Earlier, Justice Saulawa had 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 in 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 are very obvious and we have made it clear in our judgment,” he said.
Consequently, INEC has declared Jegede the candidate of the PDP for the Ondo State governorship election in compliance with the Appeal Court order. By this, he replaces Ibrahim as the PDP candidate in the election.
The electoral commission made the declaration in a statement signed by its secretary, Mrs Augusta Ogakwu.
The commission, however, did not postpone the date for the election, which is scheduled to hold this Saturday.
INEC’s statement reads in part: “In compliance with the judgment delivered today (yesterday) Wednesday, 23rd November, 2016, by the Court at Appeal Abuja Division, lNEC hereby declares that Mr Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) is now the candidate of the PDP for the Ondo State governorship election scheduled for Saturday, 26th November 2016.
“It will be recalled that in compliance with the order given by the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, on Friday 14th October, 2016, (re-affirmed on 27th October, 2016), the Commission recognised Mr Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP candidate for the Governorship election. However, with today‘s judgment by the Court of Appeal, the Commission hereby recognises Mr Jegede as the candidate of the PDP for the said election.”
The Commission urged Ondo State voters to come out and exercise their franchise on the Election Day in a peaceful manner.
It also enjoined all the political parties participating in the election and their candidates to play by the rules and cooperate with the Commission to ensure the smooth conduct of the election.