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The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave
the Justice Ibrahim Saulawa panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which is
handling the various cases relating to the dispute over the Peoples Democratic
Party’s governorship ticket in the forthcoming election in Ondo State, the nod
to continue with its proceedings.

 In two separate rulings, the five-man panel of
the apex court led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter
Onnoghen, unanimously dismissed the motions asking for stay of the appeal
court’s proceedings and others seeking an order disbanding the Justice
Saulawa-led panel.

The two categories of motions
dismissed by the apex court on Tuesday were filed by nine applicants led by
Biyi Poroye, who is the chairman of the Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction of the
party in Ondo State that is backing business mogul, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, as the
party’s governorship candidate in the forthcoming poll.

 The apex court arrived at the decisions when
14 separate appeals relating to the dispute over the PDP’s governorship ticket
for the forthcoming election in Ondo State came up for hearing on Tuesday.

 Other members of the Supreme Court’s panel –
Justice Tanko Muhammad, Kumai Akaahs, Kudirat Kekereekun and Ejembi Eko – all
agreed with the lead rulings read by Justice Onnoghen.

 With the two rulings of the apex court, the
Justice Saulawa panel could now go ahead to deliver its reserved judgments on
the appeals filed by Eyitayo Jegede and a factional National Chairman of the
PDP, Ahmed Makarfi, challenging Jegede’s replacement by the Independent
National Electoral Commission as the party’s governorship candidate for the
election scheduled to take place on November 26.

 Ibrahim belongs to the Sheriff faction while
Jegede is of the Makarfi faction of the party.

Jegede and Makarfi had appealed
before the Court of Appeal challenging the orders of Justice Okon Abang of the
Federal High Court in Abuja made on June 29 and October 14, 2016, directing
INEC to drop Jegede and substitute him with Ibrahim as the authentic
governorship candidate of the party in Ondo State in the election slated to
hold on Saturday.

Incensed by the motions filed by
the applicants, the Supreme Court after dismissing them, awarded cumulative
cost of over N10m  against Poroye’s group
and their lawyer, Mr. Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN), for filing the applications
adjudged to have constituted an abuse of court process.

The Justice Saulawa panel had earlier
on November 18, 2016, suspended the plan to deliver its reserved judgments on
the pre-election dispute in order to await the decision of the Supreme Court on
the motions for stay of proceedings filed before the apex court by Poroye and
others.

But ruling on Tuesday, the Justice
Walter Onnoghen panel of the apex court dismissed the 10 consolidated motions
for stay of proceedings filed by the Poroye group, paving the way for the
appeal court to go ahead to deliver its reserved judgment.

The Supreme Court dismissed the
applications for stay of proceedings after the lawyer to the applicants,
Nwofor, on his own withdrew the motions without any objection from opposing
lawyers.

The Justice Onnoghen panel also
dismissed the motion in which the applicants had asked the apex court to
disqualify the Justice Saulawa panel from going ahead to hear the appeals filed
by Jegede and Makarfi while the motions seeking a stay of proceedings were
pending before the apex court.

The applicants had, as part of
their prayers, urged the apex court to invoke its “disciplinary jurisdiction”
against the three Justices of the appeal court and order the disbandment of the
panel.

They had also asked the Supreme
Court to set aside the proceedings conducted by the appeal court while the
motions for stay of proceedings were pending before the apex court.

But the Supreme Court, in its
ruling, dismissed the motions for lacking in merit.

‘‘The court below (Court of Appeal)
is, hereby, ordered to continue with its proceedings forthwith,’’ Justice
Onnoghen said.

The apex court ruled that since the
motions for stay of proceedings had earlier been struck out, three of the
prayers predicated on them had become academic “and liable to being
discountenanced”.

The apex court ruled that the
joining of the Justices of the Court of Appeal who were not parties to the
dispute before the appeal court, as respondents to the motion, was an attempt
to intimidate the Justices of the Appeal court.

 Justice Onnoghen said in his lead ruling,
“Whatever they (the Justices of the Court of Appeal) did before the lower court
was in their official capacities.

 “The joining of the Justices of the Court of
Appeal was designed to intimidate them. Put mildly, it is a conduct that must
be discouraged.

“Judicial officers enjoy immunity
in the performance of their duties and are not liable to be subjected to this
kind of intimidation.”

Justice Onnoghen also noted that
there was an earlier panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Jumai Sankey,
which withdrew from further presiding over the dispute relating to the PDP
ticket, on account of the petition written against the panel members.

Justice Onnoghen ruled, “If the
applicants are allowed to continue with these pranks, there will be no end in
sight and it will not augur well for our democracy. I find no merit in the
motion and it is hereby dismissed.”

 The Supreme Court awarded N1m each (in three
separate cases) in favour of each of the Justices of the Court of Appeal joined
as parties in the appeal.This amounts to N9m.

Justice Onnoghen directed that the
cost awarded in favour of the Justices of the Court of Appeal is to be
personally paid by the applicants’ counsel, Nwofor.

The apex court also awarded
N500,000 in favour of each set of respondents who were represented by Chief
Wole Olanipekun (SAN), and Robert Emukpero.

 The cost is to be paid by the applicants.

 Earlier, in its ruling dismissing the motion
for stay of proceedings, the Supreme Court awarded N250,000 against the applicants
in each of the 10 motions for stay of proceedings withdrawn by the applicants.

The applicants were directed to pay
a cumulative N2.5m to the respondents.

The court fixed Thursday for
hearing of the substantive appeals challenging the leave granted Eyitayo Jegede
and others to file an appeal before the appeal court to challenge his
substitution with Jimoh Ibrahim as the authentic governorship candidate of the
party in the forthcoming election in Ondo State.

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