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The Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC) said yesterday that it will obey the judgment of the Court of
Appeal, which asked it to remove the name of Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim as the candidate
of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in this Saturday’s governorship election
in Ondo State.

The electoral umpire said it would
now replace Ibrahim’s name with that of Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN).

However, the commission said the
order of the court should be served on it before tomorrow.

Earlier, the  court has proclaimed Jegede as the valid
candidate for the election.

In an unanimous judgment, the
three-man special panel constituted to hear all parties emanating from crisis
described the judgment of Justice Okon Abang as a charade, fraudulent and
inexperience.

Delivering the lead judgment,
Chairman of the panel, Justice Ibrahim Salauwa, said the judgment of the lower
court was delivered in violence of the doctrine of natural law of justice [audi
altarem partem] by not hearing from one of the governorship candidate, Mr.
Eyitayo Jegede (SAN).

“The tenets of natural Justice
entails that a party ought to be heard prior to determination of case against
them”.

Meanwhile, wide jubilation greeted
the judgment in Ondo, residence troop out in show of solidarity. One of the residence,
mr olubolade, said the hope of the common man has just been affirmed, ’we are
indeed sad with the earlier judgment given, and now we are vindicated with the
appeal court ruling’’.

“It is obvious that in Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) Form 001, the name of the appellant
[Jegede] was dully published as the governorship candidate in Ondo State and
has commenced campaign throughout the nooks and crannies of the State. The
court below was in error when it recognized Jimoh Ibrahim without hearing from
the appellant.

Justice Salauwa, who narrated what
he described as regrettable incidents that gave rise to multiplicity of motions
to the Supreme Court by the Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff’s faction of the party,
said by refusing the wise counseling of the court to file their response to
Jegede’s appeal, the respondents shot themselves on the foot.

“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 on 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.

“I have most critically appraised
the preliminary objection by Nwufor, SAN, and I found that it is most grossly
lacking in merit and it is accordingly dismissed. “Having effectively dealt
with the preliminary objection, I now proceed to determine the appeal on its
merit”.

Accordingly, the appellate court
vacated the October 14 judgment of Justice Abang of the Federal High Court in
Abuja, which directed INEC to recognise Mr. Ibrahim as PDP gubernatorial
candidate for the poll.

Jegede had approached the appellate
court to challenge the High Court verdict which ordered INEC to only relate
with the Modu-Sheriff faction of the PDP. Justice Abang had on October 14, also
re-affirmed his decision, even as he warned the electoral body against
accepting any candidate nominated by the Senator Ahmed Markafi-led National Caretaker
Committee.

In compliance with the order of
court, INEC, promptly removed Jegede’s name from the list of candidates and
replaced it with Ibrahim.

Justice Salauwa held that Justice
Abang “unilaterally”, raised issues that were not included by the plaintiffs,
an action it said amounted to “a violent attitudinal disposition to the Rule of
Law”.

The court noted that Jegede filed
his appeal on November 11, which raised seven issues for determination.

He said Justice Abang was wrong
when he held that he had the requisite jurisdiction to determine the matter.

The appellate court, in arriving at
its decision, said it was necessary that it determined whether or not the
appellant was denied fair hearing by the lower court. It consequently resolved
all the seven issues in Jegede’s favour.

“There is no gain-saying that this
appeal is grossly meritorious and is hereby allowed”. An initial three-man
panel that was headed by Justice Jummai Hanatu-Sankey earlier throw in the
towel following allegation that it collected N350million bribe from Governors
Olusegun Mimiko and Nyesom Wike of Ondo and Rivers states respectively.

A legal luminary, Prof Itse Sagay,
said with the judgment, Jegede becomes the candidate of the (PDP)in the
governorship election.

He said: “It is a pre-election
matter and no appeal can change it for now. But what may happen is that if
after the election, Jimoh Ibrahim wins his appeal at the Supreme Court, he
replaces Jegede. In the event that Jegede wins the election, it would just be
like the case of Amaechi versus Omehia. But for now, Jegede remains the
candidate of the PDP”.

Legal icon, Mike Ozekhome (SAN),
said INEC has no choice than to obey the Court of Appeal verdict.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, PDP
has no more time to destroy themselves; even if Jimoh still wants to appeal the
verdict at the Supreme Court, the stay of execution of Court of Appeal needs to
be argued before the court, in order to proceed”, he said .

Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele
Fayose, commended the verdict, but regretted that INEC, has undermined PDP in
the poll. He admitted that the time was against the party to be able to make a
headway in the poll.

Fayose, who joined his party to ask
for postponement of the election as was done by the INEC in Edo State
governorship election, alleged that the electoral body had conspired with the
All Progressives Congress(APC) to undermine the PDP through the unwarranted
judicial impediment.

Former Minister of Aviation, Mr.
Femi Fani-Kayode congratulated Jegede, Governor Mimiko, Ahmed Makarfi and the
PDP on what he described as the historic victory at the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, the National Caretaker
Committee of the PDP yesterday lauded the judiciary for standing on the path of
truth in the dispute over who is the authentic governorship candidate.

However, the party insisted that
INEC must postpone the November 26, election to give its candidate an
opportunity to sell his manifesto to the people.

The party stated this yesterday in
a statement issued by its National Publicity 
Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, while reacting to the ruling of Appeal
Court that reinstated Jegede as the party’s candidate.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim has said Jegede
will not succeed Olusegun Mimiko as governor of the state.

In his reaction to the decision of
the appellate court that set aside his candidature, Ibrahim said “I have read
the decision of the Court of Appeal delivered today (yesterday). We have
nothing to lose as the Supreme Court sit on the same case tomorrow. We shall
get justice at the Supreme Court and if PDP wins Saturday election, we shall
have our four years mandate.

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